News Story

School District Spent $275,000 in Public Dollars on Tax Hike Vote

Kent County taxpayer-funded campaign was ‘extremely biased towards an affirmative vote’

The Kent Intermediate School District spent $275,206 on its May 2 enhancement millage victory, according to documents obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The May 2 ballot proposal increase was approved 54 to 46 percent, with 74,188 voting. The property tax hike will give each Kent County school district an additional $211 per student and cost taxpayers about $20 million annually.

Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Caniff said $128,000 of the cost was for conducting the election, such as poll workers and absentee ballot mailings.

“Our school districts asked us to call the election for the May date because the vast majority of tax collections within Kent ISD are in the summer,” Caniff said in an email. “The outcome of the May election allows our districts to receive the benefit of the millage beginning next school year, and local districts can properly plan and adopt their budgets accordingly.”

Caniff said the district also spent $150,000 on election communications, mailings and social media.

“We have almost a half million (460,000) registered voters in Kent County,” Caniff said. “As the taxing unit, we believe that it is our responsibility to taxpayers to fully communicate any proposal we put on the ballot asking for additional resources.”

By comparison, Ann Arbor Public Schools spent $7,478 on its May 2 election, according to a Freedom of Information Act response. There were 179,550 registered voters eligible to vote on the Ann Arbor Public Schools sinking fund.

“This is extremely concerning information about KISD, a governmental body, working to promote a millage result,” said Eric Larson, president of the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, in an email. “The materials distributed by KISD were extremely biased towards an affirmative vote and highlight exactly the sort of behavior that we (the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance) oppose. This is why we supported the state legislation preventing schools and other governments from promoting — usually in a very biased way — any millage.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.