City of Walker

Vote NO on the KISD Millage Tax Increase

On May 2, voters in the Kent Intermediate School District will be asked to decide whether or not to approve a 0.9 mill increase to their property taxes for 10 years. The tax means that the homeowner of $100,000 of taxable property will pay an addition $900 over the length of the tax. Of course, we will be asked to renew it in ten years which will be billed not as a tax increase but simply a renewal that won’t raise your taxes at all.

Kent County Taxpayers Alliance recommends a NO vote on this measure because of the following:

  • There is no significant shortage of school funding to our schools in Kent County. Per-pupil spending from 2012-2015 has increased in all but three school districts. The increases average 10.58%.
  • Superintendent salaries are far outside of the range of most working and professional families in Kent County. Aside from Kent City schools, all heads of the school systems make at $183,000 per year with the superintendents of Grand Rapids, Rockford, Forest Hills, and KISD making $329,000, $297,000, $281,000, and $258,000 respectively.
  • That Grand Rapids superintendent pay of $329,000 is a 37% increase over the 2012 pay of $240,000.
  • The tax will be unevenly distributed between the school districts as those districts with higher property values may end up providing far more tax revenue than they receive back for their district.
  • The school districts have been engaging in propaganda which we feel is inappropriate and against the spirit of the state election laws. This video produced with taxpayer money minimizes the cost to homeowners while pointing out an imaginary shortfall of inflationary funding. The “funding gap” cited is from an organization hired to prove funding gaps and put pressure on legislators to spend more on education. Proponents of this tax increase should not be able to use public sources to pay for support and should use the usual campaign finance process that everyone else has to use.
  • Affordable housing is in short supply in Kent County and increasing property taxes will make it even harder for struggling working families, refugees, and young adults to find a place to call home.

Our belief at KCTA is that the school districts are proposing too large a request of taxpayers at a time when schools have not done an adequate job of controlling costs at the administrative level. The tax also is an inefficient way to fund school districts as there will undoubtedly be net losers and winners in this tax scheme since property values vary so much between districts across Kent County.

We urge you to vote NO May 2 on the KISD tax hike. Please distribute this fact sheet to your friends and family and share on social media.

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 www.OpenGovernmentProject.org, 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.

New Poll Shows Grand Rapids Tax Increases Face Steep Climb and Land Bank Lacks Public Support

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance (KCTA) commissioned a survey with JD Consulting from June 1-3 which found that there is little support for the proposed tax increases in the city of Grand Rapids. In a phone survey of likely off-year election voters in the city of Grand Rapids, 52.4% of respondents opposed raising taxes to pay for increased funding of pools with only 26.8% support and 20.8% without an opinion. The results show that if city officials and supporters hope to pass the measure, they will have to significantly turn out their supporters, convince opponents, and most of those who are unsure. KCTA does not intend to take a position on the proposed tax increase.

In addition, KCTA sought to determine the support for the Kent County Land Bank Authority and its activities with citizens in Grand Rapids and two suburban cities. KCTA first asked the question, “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement, Government should not offer what private businesses can provide?” 56.4% agreed that government should not and 43.6% disagreed and felt government should provide services in competition with private businesses. The second question asked if people supported the taxpayer-funded Land Bank acquiring properties directly from the city or if they should first go to auction and the highest bidder. The results were broken down separately for Grand Rapids, Walker, and Grandville. Support for the auction process in Grand Rapids was 47.4% versus 31.5% supporting direct acquisition by the KCLBA and 21.1% with no opinion. The cities of Walker and Grandville had similar results with 73% and 75% support for the auctions respectively versus 24% and 22% for direct acquisition and 3% and 4% with no opinion.

The results of the polling on the Land Bank show a clear understanding from the people in those three cities to allow for an auction process and equal opportunity of acquiring property for everyone. The results did not specifically ask the question of whether the Land Bank served a vital role in the county. Said KCTA spokesman Eric Larson, “The polling results tell us what we primarily already knew. People want a fair process to allow equal opportunity for the purchase of tax foreclosed property to allow small entrepreneurs, large developers, and non-profits to revitalize these lots. There is clearly very little concern from those outside of Grand Rapids of problems with undeveloped or foreclosed lots not being utilized in their communities. We have been very pleased with the restrictions that the county commission has put on the auction process with the Land Bank but are concerned still that cities like Grand Rapids could hand over property at minimum bid prices and end up hurting their bottom line since the property would not generate nearly as much tax revenue as it would if a private individual purchased it. Hopefully, cities and townships will be at least very judicious in handing over real estate to the Land Bank.”