KENTWOOD, MI – Voters approved a 30-year, $192 million bond proposal for Kentwood Public Schools Tuesday, May 4, that will provide programs, technology, and facilities for the district’s current and future needs.
The proposal passed 3,739 to 1,776, according to unofficial election results from the Kent County Clerk’s office.
To advance its educational programs, the district plans to update its vocational and career tech learning facilities.
“Our community needs skilled plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, and first responders,” the district website reads. “This bond will enhance the facilities that serve these areas and provide students with cutting-edge vocational learning opportunities that will serve our community for years to come.”
School leaders say the bond will not increase taxes, rather extend the district’s overall debt tax levy from 2044 to 2058. The district requested to levy 0.21 mills, or $0.21 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation, for a maximum of 30 years.
With the approval from voters, the district’s overall debt tax levy will be 4.00 mills in 2022, which is a 0.25-mill decline from the 4.25-mill levy in the previous year. The debt tax rate is projected to remain at 4.00 mills through 2038 and projected to decline further in the future, Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff said.
The funds will be spent in five series over 10 years, according to the district website. Zoerhoff said the timeline of that series will be developed with input from the Kentwood Board of Education, administrators, staff, students and the community.
The bond proposal is structured to support three key areas: Advancing excellence and innovation in educational programs, enhancing educational technology and security, and ensuring student and staff health and wellness.
Kentwood is the county’s third largest district with 9,242 students enrolled this school year, according to recent state data.
The bond will ensure all students have access to up-to-date technology and security for years to come, Zoerhoff said. According to the district’s website, education continues to be dependent on technology, and computer literacy is crucial for graduate success.
The bond would also fund teaching technology, which will help staff focus on students’ individual educational needs rather than on effective content delivery.
Some of the bond plans were made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including improvements tailored to student health and wellness. Those plans include additional facilities to maintain small class sizes and safe distancing in key areas, full service kitchens and cafeterias for all the elementary schools, and health and safety modifications for restrooms, athletic facilities, and playgrounds.
Zoerhoff previously told MLive research shows investing in education has a positive impact on housing values and student outcomes.
“Studies have demonstrated time and time again what Kentwood has experienced: When communities invest in their schools, they invest in the future of the community,” he said. “The vibrant partnership between Kentwood Public Schools and the Kentwood Community certainly reflects these findings.”
The last big bond proposal Kentwood voters approved was in 2015, when the district requested a 30-year, $64.8 million bond that passed 3,125 to 2,108. The measure funded facility upgrades, technology, safety and security.
Zoerhoff said the bond played an integral role in equipping the district prior to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing Kentwood to provide computers, internet hot spots and daily food to all students this year amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The only other tax proposal on the May 4 ballot for Kent County voters was by Kelloggsville Public Schools. Voters approved the two-year operating millage renewal 486 to 240.
The millage rate is 18.0181 mills, which equates to $18.0181 for each $1,000 of taxable value. The millage renewal will be in effect for 2022 and 2023.
The millage was set to expire this year if not renewed. With the approval from voters, the district will collect about $3.46 million in 2022. This non-homestead property tax does not apply to primary residences, rather businesses, second homes and rental property for the purpose of funding school operations.
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