City of Wyoming

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.

KCTA to Oppose Wyoming Public Schools’ August Abusive Tax Election

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance today announced that it will oppose Wyoming Public Schools’ abusive tax election in August of this year. The Wyoming Schools’ millage increase attempt on May 7th was defeated at the polls, yet the school district will attempt to get voters to pass the very same tax increase in August of this year.

Such rapid-fire elections, scheduled in an attempt to get voters to pass an issue that was already defeated, are a waste of taxpayer dollars and are referred to by KCTA as abusive elections.

“Wyoming Public Schools tried an abusive election in 2011, when their attempt at a tax increase failed in May of that year,” said Jeff Steinport, spokesperson for KCTA. “The district returned to voters in August of the same year, just three months later, and it was defeated even more resoundingly. (58-42% and then 63-37%)”

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance successfully engaged in a get out the vote effort for the August 2011 election in Wyoming to inform voters of the school district’s abusive election tactics.

Wyoming Public Schools’ superintendent Thomas Reeder is quoted as saying that he wants true representation of the public at the next election. “This begs the question,” said Steinport, “If the district’s leadership wants maximum participation by the public, it should have chosen November, for its tax increase election in the first place.

“If the government school leaders were honest, they would recognize the folly of their argument. Godfrey Lee Schools only had 6% turnout, were those positive results invalid? And if the Wyoming millage question had passed, would the board have voted to re-ask the question with only 11% turnout? The decision by the school board to rerun the election shows a total disregard and almost contempt for those who took the time to vote. They are clearly not interested in the democratic process.”

KCTA also successfully fought an abusive tax election held by Grand Rapids Community College in August of 2007, just three months after the same tax issue was defeated in May of that year.

KCTA Successfully Fights Wasteful Tax Increase in Wyoming

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, a local non-partisan taxpayer advocacy organization, is celebrating another victory at the ballot box. Today Wyoming Public Schools again asked for a 0.5 mill property tax increase for a so-called sinking fund. This fund would have enabled Wyoming Public Schools to pay for building repairs and other capital expenses, without having to dip into operating funds.

The exact same issue was on the ballot in May of this year, and it was defeated by a vote of 58% to 42%. Wyoming Public School leaders believed that voters didn’t understand the tax issue in May and decided to try again only three months later. KCTA did not oppose the tax increase in May.

KCTA got involved in this election because such redundant and repetitive elections display a contempt for taxpayers on the part of elected leaders. This is the only issue that was on the ballot in Wyoming and this election cost taxpayers over $9,000 to administer.

“We have consistently fought to limit the number of tax issues that local governments can put on the ballot each year,” said Eric Larson, spokesman for KCTA. He continued, “Wyoming Public Schools wasted more taxpayer money, hoping that voters wouldn’t show up to oppose the tax increase a second time because this was the only question on the ballot.”

The result today was 63% voting “no,” a higher percentage than in May. KCTA reached out to over 2,000 voters in Wyoming to remind them to vote “no” and send a message that these sorts of wasteful elections need to stop.

Get Out the Vote Effort Organized to Oppose Wyoming School Millage

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, a local non-partisan taxpayer’s advocacy group, began its get-out-the-vote effort opposing the second attempt to pass a Wyoming School millage tax increase. The millage request for 0.5 mils assessed for ten years in a sinking fund is identical to the request put before the voters on May 3rd of this year.

KCTA did not oppose the millage in May but will work to defeat the request on its second attempt this August 2nd.  Said KCTA spokesman Eric Larson, “We are so disappointed in the actions of the Wyoming School Board to bring before the voters an identical tax increase request that voters soundly rejected by 16% only three months ago. Our mission is to promote transparency, government efficiency, and good governance. Asking the people of Wyoming, who pay some of the highest property taxes in Kent County, for a rejected tax increase again is a clear abuse of government power.

“We find it ludicrous that the school board chose to hold an election to re-request a tax increase that will cost the taxpayers over $9000 when those same voters definitively said ‘no’ in May. We believe no means no. Unfortunately, many government officials think no means maybe. In order to protect taxpayers we will begin an extensive get-out-the-vote effort before the election so that Wyoming citizens realize there is an election. We can only hope, if the measure fails again, the government will accept the will of the people after this election.”

KCTA Questions Second Wyoming School Millage Request

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, a local non-partisan taxpayer’s advocacy group, announced its disappointment in the Wyoming school district’s decision to ask for the same millage increase this August that failed in the recent May election. The Wyoming school district is asking for a 0.5 mill increase in property taxes for ten years in a proposal that failed on May 3rd by a 58-42% margin.

KCTA spokesman Eric Larson said, “Our disappointment and opposition to the Wyoming school district millage request is the same today as it was to Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC)’s request in 2007. After a narrow defeat in May of 2007, GRCC officials said the voters didn’t understand their tax request so they reran the millage only three months later. We helped defeat the GRCC millage then and we will seriously consider actively opposing this request. Ordinarily, we do not get involved in single municipality or school district millage requests but we may make an exception this time.”

“We are opposed to governments that continue asking the same question again and again until they get the result they want. Wyoming’s school officials should show respect for the voters and accept their defeat.”

“We find it insulting that the school officials insinuate the ‘no’ voters were voting against the bus millage and were unaware that the Wyoming school district question was a separate tax request. If the government believes you are intelligent enough to vote yes or no they need to accept the results.” Continued Larson, “Placing this issue on the ballot again is fiscally improper as a special election is being called in Wyoming to ask just this question. It is this sort of abuse of the taxpayers that we are committed to exposing and fighting.”