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Bond proposals, millage renewals up for vote in five districts

All districts — Voters in five Kent County school districts will be heading to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 7 to consider millage requests. Cedar Springs, East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Grand Rapids and Rockford all have funding proposals on their ballots. Before heading to the polls or dropping off an absentee ballot at your local clerk’s office, here is a rundown about the issues voters will be considering.

Cedar Springs Public Schools

Cedar Springs is asking voters to renew an 18-mill non-homestead (non-residential) operating millage for another 10 years. Set to expire in the summer of 2024, approval would extend the non-homestead operating millage through 2034. 

The renewal would allow Cedar Springs to continue levying taxes on businesses, rental properties and industrial and non-exempt agricultural properties. 

“Failure to renew this tax would mean the loss of $3.3 million in operational funding,” Superintendent Scott Smith stated in a release. “These funds are used to educate our students and would significantly impact the programs and services currently offered to them.” 

Read more about the Cedar Springs proposal

East Grand Rapids Public Schools

East Grand Rapids Public Schools is seeking approval of a bond proposal that would generate $158.9 million, to be used for a 61,000-square-foot addition and a 100,000-square-foot renovation of academic spaces at the high school. 

The funds also would be used for construction of new spaces for STEAM programs and renovations to the Performing Arts Center, music areas, locker rooms and classrooms. Woodcliff Early Childhood Center would receive five new classrooms, and there would be various other improvements district-wide, including renovations at Memorial Field and a new track.

“The No. 1 thing we were hoping to have in that process was the critical voices of students and staff to (discuss) how teaching and learning occurs at the high school and how the facility works or could be improved,” said Anthony Morey, East Grand Rapids assistant superintendent of finance and operations. “Really, the bond is a reflection, or an outcome, from that engagement work.”

There is no anticipated increase over the current 9.95-mill tax rate.

Read more about the East Grand Rapids proposal

Forest Hills Public Schools

Forest Hills has two proposals on the Nov. 7 ballot: a $340 million request to fund capital improvements for eight years, and a non-homestead millage restoration expected to generate $395,000 for the district.

If the $340 million request is approved, all of the district’s 17 school facilities would undergo capital improvements. Depending on each school’s needs, these could include new learning environments, roofing, mechanical, paving and playgrounds. 

The funds also would be used toward updating athletic facilities at all three high schools; a new aquatics center; a repurposing of the current Community and Aquatic Center; capital improvements at the transportation center and the Fine Arts Center; and life-cycle replacement of technology, buses and fixtures, furniture and equipment.

“The modernizing of the learning spaces is continuing the work that was done with our 2018 proposal,” said Julie Davis, Forest Hills’ assistant superintendent of finance and operations. “We’re just excited for the potential to continue to modernize our learning spaces.”

The second request would restore the district’s non-resident (non-homestead) operating millage to the full 18 state-authorized mills, reauthorizing 0.5 mills reduced due to the 1978 Headlee Amendment.  This would generate about $395,000 for the district’s annual operating budget. 

There is no anticipated increase over the current tax rate for either proposal.

Read more about the Forest Hills proposals

Watch: How Schools Spend Their Budgets

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools is asking voters to extend its current 3.85-mill property tax rate for up to 26 years, generating $305 million over that period. 

The no-tax-increase bond would extend a 1.75-mill levy approved by voters in 2004 that is set to expire next year, and a 2.1-mill levy approved in 2015. 

If approved, it would generate about $233.6 million for construction of new facilities, additions and renovations. Another $29 million would go toward districtwide consolidation, as the district plans to shutter some underutilized schools if the bond is approved. 

The rest of the funds would be used for renovations of auditoriums, food service areas and athletic facilities, technology improvements, safety and security upgrades, and playgrounds.

“This is a huge opportunity for our community and for Grand Rapids Public Schools,” said Leon Hendrix, GRPS executive director of communications and external affairs. “If this bond passes, it means a $305 million investment that we’re going to be able to put into our communities, to make sure that our scholars have safe, healthy and healing environments.”

Read more about the Grand Rapids proposal

Rockford Public Schools 

Rockford is asking voters to renew a long-standing parks and recreation millage that helps the district provide recreational opportunities and services to the broader Rockford community, including its senior citizens. 

The renewal is a no-tax-increase renewal, which means that Rockford taxpayers will continue to fund the services at a rate of .9125 mills, or $0.9125 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation. The renewal is for 20 years, ending in 2044. In total, the millage provided $2,142,842 in revenue in 2022.

If approved, one of the goals will be to prioritize millage funds to reduce the pay-to-play fee for youth sports by 50%. The millage pays for community education classes, swim lessons, use of school facilities by clubs and organizations, Special Olympics and more.

“The Community Services department connects the community with educational and fun opportunities for all ages at minimal to no cost,” said Lisa Jacobs, RPS executive director of Community Services. “We also provide the ability for our community groups to utilize the facilities after the school day.”

Read more about the Rockford proposal

Read more from Kent County: 
Teacher shortage remains major challenge in Kent County, beyond
Teacher shortage ‘glimmer of hope’ on the horizon?

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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