Millage for all 20 Kent County school districts passes

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters in Kent County on Tuesday approved a $19.9 million regional enhancement millage for the Kent Intermediate School District.

County-wide, about 54 percent of voters OK’d the measure.

Big wins in places like Ada, East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Township helped propel the proposal to a win. It also won in the big cities like Wyoming, Kentwood and Grand Rapids. The proposal squeaked by in Byron Center by about 100 votes. Voters there also approved a $68.24 million bond by more than 1,400 votes.

The proposal lost in the northern parts of Kent County, including Nelson, Solon and Sparta townships and the city of Cedar Springs. The measure also failed in Walker. All the small chunks of Barry and Ottawa counties that are in the Kent ISD rejected it.

The only general trend is that where voter turnout was high, the proposal tended to pass. Turnout was 17 percent overall, but was as high as 30 percent or more in some areas. In Grand Rapids, about 16,000 people cast ballots. That’s roughly 12 percent of the city’s registered voters, according to City Clerk Darlene O’Neal.

>>Inside Election results

Supporters of the millage who were gathered in Grand Rapids declared victory around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m extremely happy not only for the kids in Grand Rapids, but for the kids across the county. It’s a win for all of our students,” Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said.

A property tax increase of .9 mills will send more money to all 20 school districts in Kent County for the next 10 years. 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 to use the funds.

“There are no strings tied to this money, so truly these dollars will go directly to the classroom to improve educational opportunities for kids,” Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler said.

In Kalamazoo County, voters approved renewing the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency Regional Enhancement Millage. That means a 1.5 mill tax initially approved in will continue for three more years. The millage will send about $339 per student in funding on top of state funding to each school district in the county.