As your superintendent, I want to personally inform Godfrey-Lee Public Schools families and parents of the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal to establish a stable, reliable source of funding for West Michigan school districts. Every parent can agree that it is critical to provide our kids with a high-quality education and this proposal will help our students have the opportunity to learn, achieve and be college and career ready.
Many of you are aware that school districts across West Michigan, including our district, have taken steps to tighten their belts, find efficiencies, cut costs, reduce staff and consolidate services. Despite these efforts, too many local school districts and communities continue to struggle to provide the quality education our students deserve.
All 20 school districts within the Kent Intermediate School District have made the formal request to the Kent ISD to place the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal on the May 2, 2017 ballot. Voters will be asked to approve a 0.9 millage which will cost the average homeowner in the county approximately $81 a year (lower in our district).
If approved, all millage dollars will be collected by Kent ISD and distributed equally on a per pupil basis to each local school district. Our school district will be able to use these resources to meet the unique needs of our students and provide high-quality classroom instruction. Again, 100 percent of funds from this proposal will be spent on classroom instruction and kids. Moreover, all spending will be publicly disclosed on a website and independent audits will be performed to ensure transparency, accountability and that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.
Over the next several months, you will see and hear more about the Strong Schools, Strong Communities proposal. Below are responses to frequently asked questions for your convenience. Thank you for all that you do for our kids and community, and please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, concerns or thoughts.
- What is an enhancement millage?
When the legislature in 1993 drafted a new funding formula for public schools, passed by voters as Proposal A in 1994, concerns existed that over time the new funding plan could fall short of revenue needs and expectations in certain communities. To compensate for the potential need for additional revenues, Proposal A included a provision allowing Intermediate School Districts to levy up to 3 mills for 20 years or less to be distributed 100% on a per pupil basis to every constituent K-12 school district within that ISD.
- How is an enhancement millage different than a bond issue?
School districts have two primary sources of funding, operational and capital. Capital revenues such as the 2013 bond approved by Godfrey-Lee voters for building and facility repairs and improvements, along with security and technology upgrades, is generally funded through bond issues, which are levied locally for capital expenditures. Operating revenues come primarily from the state, through the “foundation grant” allocated to each district on a per pupil basis. These state dollars include your local contribution through the 6-mill state education tax and the 18-mill non-homestead tax levy on businesses and second homes. An enhancement millage would be an additional local contribution to school operations that if approved would support programs and services at the classroom level.
- How is the enhancement millage proposal placed on the ballot?
The only way districts can receive additional operating revenues to meet student needs is through an ISD enhancement millage levied, collected, and distributed equally to each district on a per pupil basis. As a result, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Board of Education, along with the other 19 school districts within Kent ISD, passed a resolution asking the Kent ISD board to place the proposal on the May 2, 2017, ballot. Per legislation Godfrey-Lee is prohibited from independently asking its voters for additional operating revenues.
- How much are districts asking for?
Districts asked Kent ISD’s school board to call for an election asking voter approval of 0.9 mills for 10 years. The 0.9 mills will provide an estimated $19,931,466 in additional revenue for Kent County school districts in the first year of the levy, which amounts to approximately $211 per pupil.
- How will the revenue be distributed?
The revenue will be collected by Kent ISD and distributed by law on an equal, per pupil basis, to each of the local school districts within Kent ISD. Kent ISD will not receive any money or administrative expense from this millage; per law 100% must be given to school districts. For Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, it will approximately generate an additional $415,000 annually beginning this next school year.
- How will these funds be used?
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools will dedicate 100% of the dollars raised from the enhancement millage to the classrooms for teaching and learning with emphasis on supporting academic achievement K-12. This will include:
- Attracting and retaining highly-effective teachers
- Curriculum and instruction materials
- English language learning including dual-language immersion or other innovative programs
- STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
- Innovative initiatives resulting from the district’s human-centered design process focused on learning growth and achievement in content and critical 21st century skills
- How much will this cost the average homeowner?
The proposal calls for a levy of 0.9 mills for 10 years. The state equalized taxable value for a $100,000 home is one-half the market price, or $50,000. If approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $45 per year in taxes, or $3.75 per month. In other words, for each $1,000 of state equalized taxable value, the homeowner would pay 90 cents more per year in taxes.
- Why do schools need more money?
All public school districts have seen the purchasing power of state revenue received decline over the past decade. A report (http://house.michigan.gov/hfa/PDF/Briefings/State_Budget_Overview_fy15-16.pdf page 17) from the House Fiscal Agency in January 2016 found school revenues, adjusted for inflation, are 6% less today than in 2000. You can also see a chart on how state funding for Godfrey-Lee has declined since 1995 when adjusted for inflation at http://tinyurl.com/GLPSFundingDecline.
Because the purchasing power of district revenues has declined, districts have cut millions in operating expenses but are still struggling to maintain the core educational services necessary for all students to succeed. A recent study (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/budget/Michigan_Education_Finance_Study_527806_7.pdf) commissioned by the Michigan Legislature found every district should receive $8,667 per pupil, which is well above what most districts currently receive in state funding.
In addition, a three-year study (http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2016/michigan-school-funding-choice-policies-hurting-local-districts/) by the Michigan State University Policy Institute released in June 2016 found Michigan school districts face financial hardship based on factors almost entirely outside their control. Top among those factors was inadequate state per-pupil funding, declining enrollment, and the increasing number of students with special needs statewide.
- What has Godfrey-Lee done to keep costs down?
Like most homeowners, the district has been cutting general fund expenses every year since 2009. To try and keep class sizes at the elementary level down and continue to provide quality educational programs with less resources, we have also had to dip into our fund reserves, often called the district’s “rainy day fund.” In 2008, our district had a 23% fund balance that has fallen to just above 10% today.
- When will the enhancement millage proposal be put before voters?
This proposal will be on the May 2, 2017, ballot.
- Why did schools ask for a “special” election?
The 20 Kent County School Districts felt the need for new revenues was significant as to merit a May election so students in the 2017-2018 school year and beyond will benefit should the enhancement millage be approved by voters.
- What happens after 10 years?
The millage will expire and enhancement funding will end unless local boards of education again petition Kent ISD to seek a renewal on behalf of local school districts.
- What if I have additional questions?
You can always contact the Godfrey-Lee Superintendent or Director of Finance at 616-241-4722.
Election Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Last Day to Register: Monday, April 3, 2017 (online registration information available at https://www.vote.org/register-to-vote/michigan)
Absentee ballots will be available: Saturday, March 18, 2017
REGIONAL ENHANCEMENT MILLAGE PROPOSAL
Pursuant to state law, the revenue raised by the proposed millage will be collected by the intermediate school district and distributed wholly and completely to local public school districts based on pupil membership count.
Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property in Kent Intermediate School District, Michigan, be increased by .9 mill ($0.90 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2017 to 2026, inclusive, to provide operating funds to enhance other state and local funding for local school district operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the intermediate school district will collect if the millage is approved and levied in 2017 is approximately $19,931,466, which funds will be disbursed wholly and completely as required by statute to the following school districts: Byron Center Public Schools, Caledonia Community Schools, Cedar Springs Public Schools, Comstock Park Public Schools, East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Forest Hills Public Schools, Godfrey-Lee Public Schools, Godwin Heights Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grandville Public Schools, Kelloggsville Public School District, Kenowa Hills Public Schools, Kent City Community Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, Lowell Area Schools, Northview Public Schools, Rockford Public Schools, Sparta Area Schools, Thornapple Kellogg School, and Wyoming Public Schools.