What you need to know about May 2 ballot proposals

kent isd regional enhancement millage
Mailers encouraging voters to approve the Kent Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement Millage. (April 26, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Many West Michigan voters will be asked to decide on ballot proposals when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

There are a total of 52 races across West Michigan on election day, many of which are requests to renew existing millages. Other ballot questions are new proposals.

You can find your polling place and view a sample ballot by visiting the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center website.

What you need to know about what’s on the ballot near you:

KALAMAZOO COUNTY CONSOLIDATED DISPATCH

Kalamazoo County is asking citizens to approve an increase to the phone surcharge to pay to consolidate the 911 dispatch centers for several emergency response agencies.

In 2016, the county began to assess a fee of $0.42 per line per month to pay for the consolidated dispatch, which is set to begin in 2018. However, the $0.42 per line per month is not enough to cover the costs of the program. Voters will be asked to raise that fee to $2.30 per line, a 450 percent increase. The new surcharge would raise about $5.8 million per year.

Currently, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Western Michigan University campus police, Portage police and Kalamazoo Township police all operate and fund their own dispatch systems. Passing the surcharge would allow each community to use the current dispatch funding for other purposes.

Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board said better communication between dispatchers for separate Kalamazoo-area agencies may have prevented a June 2016 bicycle crash that left five people dead. The federal agency urged ‘expediting’ the creation of a consolidated dispatch. Local law enforcement has rejected the notion that they could have prevented the crash, but say they support combining dispatch services.

COUNTY-WIDE SCHOOL MILLAGES

Kent Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement Millage: A property tax increase of .9 mills would to send more money to all 20 school districts in Kent County for the next 10 years.

If the proposal is passed, each district would receive an additional $211 per student each year, which can be used to supplement the funding that comes from the state. That works out to $284,014 for Kent City, which has the smallest student population, and about $3.5 million for Grand Rapids Public Schools, which has the most students. Each district will choose how it will use the funds.

Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency Regional Enhancement Millage: Voters are being asked to continue a 1.5 mills tax for three years. Approval would renew a millage that was first passed in 2005, so the current millage rate would remain the same. If the millage is passed, each school district in Kalamazoo County would get about $339 per student in funding on top of what districts gets from the state.

>>PDF: Millage fact sheet

DISTRICT BONDS AND MILLAGES

Voters will decide whether to approve a $29.5 million bond for Allendale Public Schools that would fund the construction of a new Early Childhood Center, security and technology enhancements at the high school, new buses, and improved student drop-off areas.

Byron Center Public Schools is asking citizens to continue the current bond for 14 more years, raising an estimated $68.24 million. The district has seen enrollment grow and is projecting that to continue. Most of the money would be used to add space at the high school, which is already near capacity. The Early Childhood Center would also see four new classrooms added. Money would also go to new security features at other district buildings, and updating buses and technology and athletic facilities.

>>PDF: Byron Center bond proposal

A $52.3 million bond proposal for Greenville Public Schools would pay to add secure entrances and make traffic flow changes around schools for student safety, and also fund building and technology improvements.

Shelby Public Schools has two proposals that would move most students to a single campus:

  • The first proposal is for $17.115 million. It would pay to create a middle/high school bringing grades 7 through 12 into the current high school building, which would be renovated and have classroom space added. Grades K through 6 will be moved to the current middle school, which will also be renovated. New Era Elementary would close and Thomas Read Elementary would become an Early Childhood Center. The proposal would also fund technology and security improvements.
  • The second proposal for $2.86 million would fund the construction a new gym at the high school.

Wayland Union Schools also has two proposals on the ballot:

  • The first one, which would raise $34.1 million, would pay to build a new fourth- and fifth-grade elementary school to replace Pine Street Elementary. Pine Street Gym would remain open. Sixth-graders would move from Pine Street Elementary to the middle school, where a new sixth grade wing would be built. Baker, Dorr and Steeby Elementary Schools would see interior and mechanical updates with additional security features. The high school would also see security and mechanical upgrades, along with improvements to the stadium press box and sound system.
  • The second proposal asks for $20.845 million to go toward build a new pool and locker room facilities. The old pool would be renovated to include a new robotics shop, auto shop, and CAD Lab learning spaces. The old auto shop area would become additional performing arts rooms for band and orchestra. The stadium would get new turf and 12 tennis courts would be built.

A Whitehall District Schools millage of 2 mills would pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of a Community Aquatic Center. It would be connected to the White Lake Community Center, which is the old high school.

VAN BUREN COUNTY BUILDING

Van Buren County residents will decide whether to approve a property tax increase of .7 mills to direct more funds to the courthouse, jail and administration building. The millage would run for 20 years.