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$15.7-million operating millage on May 2 ballot

Grandville — A renewal of Grandville Public Schools’ operating millage proposal will be on the ballot for voters on May 2. The district’s current operating levy will expire in December. 

The operating millage provides funding to support day-to-day school operations, including instructional programs and materials, transportation, maintenance and staffing costs. If the renewal fails to pass, GPS would stand to lose $15.7 million in annual operating costs, the district said. 

“It is not something that you normally see (on the ballot),” Superintendent Roger Bearup said in a video message to the district, noting that the current millage has been in place for 10 years. 

“This is not something we just made up — it is required by the state of Michigan, and every community school district in the state must ask for this 18 mills to be levied … and it is only on non-primary residences.” 

The proposal levies an 18-mill tax on non-homestead property, which voters last approved in November 2013. The May proposal would renew the operating millage for another four years and does not affect property taxes on primary residences.

“When you look at our school budget, and all the great things that we have to support our kids, $15.7 million dollars is a lot of money that we would not be getting to be able to really focus on their academic success, on their well-being and, of course, on safety things that we’re trying to do to continue to strengthen our processes and procedures,” Bearup said. “It is very, very important that we have this funding to help our students.”

Voters will note that the ballot language proposes 19 mills for four years, even though by state law the district cannot levy more than 18 mills annually. This is due to the Headlee Amendment, a tax limitation in the Michigan Constitution that requires government entities and schools to reduce millage amounts when annual property values increase greater than the rate of inflation. 

GPS has experienced a “Headlee Rollback” for the past seven years, meaning the district has not received its full 18-mill funding, Bearup explained in a letter to the district community. The new 19-mill language in this May’s proposal seeks to remedy that issue.

“Currently our levy is reduced to 16.8 mills,” he said. “If 19 mills were approved, it would allow the additional 1 mill to offset up to 1 mill of Headlee Rollback and make up any difference over the four years (up to 1 mill worth of rollback) to keep it at 18 (mills) or as close as possible.

“Restoring our operating millage to 18 mills would allow Grandville Public Schools to receive our full per-pupil funding from the state of Michigan.”  

Read more from the district on the millage request.

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Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell
Beth Heinen Bell is associate editor, reporter and copy editor. She is an award-winning journalist who got her professional start as the education reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune. A Calvin University graduate and proud former Chimes editor, she later returned to Calvin to help manage its national writing festival. Beth has also written for The Grand Rapids Press and several West Michigan businesses and nonprofits. She is fascinated by the nuances of language, loves to travel and has strong feelings about the Oxford comma. Read Beth's full bio


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