Kent County Open Government Project

New Kent County Open Government Project web page released; compare tax rates, schools, and transparency

Today the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance announced the release of its completely revitalized Kent County Open Government Project (KCOGP) web site. This site allows residents of Kent County to compare local tax rates, school district performance, and local government transparency. It also allows anyone to create and print out a Freedom of Information Act request to any unit of local government in the county.

“We’re very excited to release our Kent County Open Government Project web site,” said Jeff Steinport, spokesperson for the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance. “The new features are beyond anything we’ve seen for any taxpayer organization in Michigan. We’re proud of the hard work that went into the site and we know that it will be very useful for all Kent County residents.”

The new site, available at, allows anyone to view the tax rates for each township, village, and city in the county, as well which school districts overlap each local unit of government. This, combined with the ability to compare school district performance, allows residents to find the best schools at the lowest cost.

For instance, the KCOGP web site allows users to find the school district with the highest graduation rate in the county – Caledonia Community Schools. When the user views the details of that school district, the municipalities that overlap it can be compared according to tax rate. The lowest local tax rate in the Caledonia Community Schools District is Lowell Township, with the 77th lowest taxes in the county (out of 93 local taxing units).

The Kent County Open Government Project also rated each local unit of government in 24 areas of transparency, ranking them on how open they are and how much information they make available to taxpayers online. Each unit of government was ranked with a letter grade. The highest-ranking government in the county was the City of Wyoming, with a raw score of 22 and a letter grade of A. The lowest ranking local government was a tie between the Village of Sand Lake and the Village of Casnovia, both with a very poor score of 3 and a letter grade of F.

Some interesting statistics available on the Kent County Open Government Project web site include:

  • The highest taxes in the county are in the part of the City of Grand Rapids that overlaps Forest Hills Public Schools, with an average tax bill of $3,403 each year;
  • The lowest taxes in the county are in the part of Solon Township that overlaps Tri County Area Schools, with an average tax bill of $1,466 each year;
  • The school district with the highest graduation rate is Caledonia Community Schools, with a 95.11% graduation rate;
  • The school district with the lowest graduation rate is Grand Rapids Public Schools, with a graduation rate of 44.56%;
  • Wayland Union Schools spends the most per pupil in the county, spending $17,268 each;
  • Tri County Area Schools spends the least per pupil in the county, spending $9,387 each.

The Rapid Earns a “D-” in Transparency; City of Grand Rapids an “A”

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, a local non-partisan taxpayers’ rights organization, unveiled its first annual survey of local government transparency today. The survey rated 16 major governmental units in the county and graded them based on a number of factors. Topping the scorecard was the city of Grand Rapids which earned an A with a score of 87%. At the bottom was the Interurban Transit Partnership, or Rapid, which earned a D- and a score of only 23%.

“The whole purpose of the survey is to gauge our local governments in their level of transparency, provide a means of determining progress from one year to the next, and hopefully encourage some productive competition to improve easy access to information,” said KCTA spokesman Eric Larson.

The survey scored the governments on 15 categories that they deemed important for taxpayers to have access. These included items like annual audits, full budgets, union contracts, salary information, and a page dedicated to transparency. Each category fulfilled counted as one point with a half point awarded if the category was only partially completed.

The city of Grand Rapids scored 13 out of 15 for the top score and was lacking in only having a dedicated transparency web page and the salaries of top officials. The Rapid scored a paltry 3.5 out of 15 lacking most basic information critical for citizens to gauge the performance of government.

Said Larson, “With the ease of posting such information online, there is little excuse for any government to not provide this for its citizens. We feel it is critical for governments to make this basic operational information available so that we can gauge how well they operate. Without the information, citizens are left without any means of determining whether their government is using tax money responsibly. It makes it very difficult to determine who is worthy of tax increases or cuts.”

To view the full results of the transparency survey, please visit our Kent County Open Government Project web page.