$20M Kent County schools millage proposal heads to vote next month

The Kent Intermediate School District is asking for the community to vote "yes" on May 2 to its proposed school millage.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The Kent Intermediate School District is asking for the community to vote "yes" on May 2 to its proposed school millage.

Leaders say the money will help support business and early college programs, school personnel and other services for the 20 districts within KISD.

This is the first time the Kent ISD has asked for an enhancement millage, but administrators said it's crucial to maintain and improve existing services to help students continue to be successful. 

"Our schools are part of the success story of West Michigan and if we want our schools to continue to thrive, then we need to continue to grow our programs and what we're offering kids," Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff said.

While it's new for Kent County, the millage is already levied in five other ISDs within Michigan.

"It's not new to Michigan, this is a law that's been on the books for over 20 years," Caniff said.

Here's how it would work:

The millage equals 90-cents on each $1,000 of taxable property valuation, costing the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $67.60 a year. 

The millage will raise nearly $20 million, providing each district with an additional $211 per student each year for ten years.

"It does not go to Lansing, it stays right here among all of the schools that are members of the KISD," parent Tamera Laage said.

Caniff said every penny of that $20 million will go back to the 20 school districts.

"We're going to have availability on our website in terms of tracking these funds, that's important to us in terms of transparency," Caniff said.

"This is not a Lansing decision, this is not a political decision, this is just a decision by the community to raise funds locally for local schools," Laage said.

Both Laage and Caniff agree -- the millage is what will continue to drive the West Michigan's business sector.

"Whether you have children or not, it helps West Michigan and specifically Kent County become a more stable, more vibrant place where we live and work," Laage said.

"If we want businesses and industry to continue to grow here in West Michigan then we need to continue to up our game in terms of K-12 getting our kids ready to be connected to those careers," Caniff said.

If voters approve the millage on May 2, schools will see the money as soon as this fall.

However, there is opposition to the millage. The Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association has a Facebook page urging people to vote against the proposal. Among the comments on the page, people who are on fixed income said they can't afford to pay higher property taxes.

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