Zoo, museum millage would fund other cities and villages

Opposition to Zoo & Museum Millage

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Voters county wide are being asked to approve a millage, to provide funding to the John Ball Zoo, and Grand Rapids Public Museum.

The measure says the zoo and museum would use the funds to care for animals and artifacts, repair and improve exhibits, and enhance educational programs.

It would cost the average home owner about $37 a year if the millage passes. An amount  based on a property value assessed at $170,000.

Per law, a certain percentage of that millage is going to local cities and communities in Kent County. It's a condition that has August Treu, of Grand Rapids, voting no. 

"I'm in favor of both the museum and the zoo as public attractions, but I think the money should be spent carefully and not for other purposes," Treu said.

The "other purposes" the Grand Rapids resident is referring to is funding for certain Kent County cities and villages included in the proposal. According to the ballot, if the millage passes it would raise roughly $9.2 million in its first year, $414,000 of that would go to selected cities and townships in Kent County.

"There will come a time, when all of these dollars will come to, but they are --by state law-- some captions in the district," Harold Voorhees, co-chair of Yes! Zoo and Museum, said.

Voorhees, a millage supporter and former lawmaker, says it's a stipulation that is inevitable.

"You've got to follow state law," he said. "As I would always tell them, I'm a lawmaker not a lawbreaker, if we don't like the law, we got to change it."

Tax increment financing has been around since the 70's and can be used to fund public improvements in downtown districts, among other things.

It's an addition Treu does not think belongs in this proposal.

"If I'm voting for a proposal for the zoo and the museum, I'd want to see all the money go to the zoo and the museum. If the city needs money for something else, they can run another ballot for that purpose," Treu said.

According to the supporters website, if the proposal passes it will give Kent County kids free admission to the Museum and school groups free admission to the Zoo. It will also reduce admission for Kent County seniors and provide free parking for both facilities.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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