GRPS bond proposals: 2004 vs 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After Grand Rapids Public Schools announced it plans to ask voters to pass a $175 million bond, 24 Hour News 8 dug into what has changed since the last time the district asked for and got nearly the same amount.

If approved this November, the $175 million would be used for construction, technology and security. It would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $8 per month.

The last time GRPS asked voters to approve a bond was in 2004, when they said OK to two bonds that totaled $165 million by a margin of about 60 percent.

So what’s changed between then and now?

“We knew Transformation Plan phase one was critical to getting to the point to where we are today,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said two weeks ago when the bond proposal was announced. “We believe now was the time to start to ask the community, to say we are ready to implement phase two.”

In 2004, GRPS had more than 22,000 K-12 students. Last school year, it had a total of 16,821 students.

(A comparison of enrollment figures for GRPS.)
(A comparison of enrollment figures for GRPS.)

Graduation rates appeared more consistent.

The rate was about 75 percent at the end of the 2004-2005 school year, compared to nearly 50 percent now. That may seem like a major dropoff, but 24 Hour News 8 learned through documents online that the state changed how it tracked the rate of graduation in 2005 as a result of federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

Since that change, the rate has been fairly steady at around 50 percent. It has gone up about two percent each of the past two years.

(A comparison of GRPS graduation rates.)
(A comparison of GRPS graduation rates.)

The money from the 2004 millage was used to construct or remodel 11 elementary or middle schools and Houseman Field.

If the millage that goes before voters in November passes, GRPS says, every school in the district — about 50 buildings — will get some funds for renovations. How much money will depend on need.

“The streets tax passed by nearly 70 percent; the parks tax just a few years before passed by about 60 percent,” Helmholdt said. “So the voters of Grand Rapids have demonstrated that when a carefully thought-out, important investment is brought to them that has demonstrated results; one that makes sense for this community, for the children, for the residents of this city, that they are willing to open up their pocketbook and invest.”

GRPS plans to have meetings with the public about the plan before it hits the ballot.

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