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TK bond issue, Caledonia non-homestead levy win overwhelming approval

Karen Turko-Ebright

 Contributing Writer

 

Greg Chandler

Staff writer

 

Voters in the Thornapple Kellogg school district Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a $42.8 million dollar bond issue, while those in the Caledonia Community Schools district easily passed a Headlee override measure that fully restores the district's 18-mill levy on businesses, rental properties and vacation homes.

 

TK voters passed a 25-year, no-mill increase school improvement bond with 68 percent of the total vote – 1,836 yes votes to 853 no. The Caledonia 1.8-mill non-homestead Headlee override request passed with 3,419 yes votes to 1,729 no votes.

 

 “The passage of our bond proposal is a tremendous boost to the school district. I want to thank our community for their continued support of our amazing school district,” Superintendent Rob Blitchok said. “I also want to thank the TK Board of Education and the bond campaign committee for their leadership and vision in the formation and success of the bond request. I am humbled to be the superintendent of TK Schools.

 

I'm pleased the voters supported the proposal. I feel grateful for what this means for our students.”
 

Board President Anne Hamming said she is not surprised that the bond was approved and credits the victory to a successful campaign.

“This was a community-driven effort from the get-go, from the strategic planning to our community surveys,” Hamming said. “We had hundreds of community members weigh in on the surveys and right on through to the voters saying yes.”

School officials kept the theme of meeting the needs of a growing school district consistent throughout the campaign before and after they approved a bond request resolution in August. According to school officials, the number of students enrolled last year in the district was 3,159, but the projection is 3,170 students.

School officials said, based on information and feedback from the community along with enrollment projections, it was determined that more classroom space and the ability to maintain the school district’s infrastructure was needed in the facilities.

Blitchok said he believes the bond passed for two reasons: “The issues we are facing were communicated clearly and the community trusts the board of education and district administration to do what is right for the district.”

Assistant Superintendent of Finance Craig McCarthy said, although enrollment has been increasing at TK schools, the biggest capacity pinches have been at the elementary level. “I’m not surprised,” McCarthy said of the passing of the bond proposal. He said the public has been there through the whole campaign process.

Now that the bond has been approved the district will be allowed to expand, remodel and re-quip existing facilities and install new technology that is needed, improve athletic facilities, add music and art rooms, buy new school buses and improve school playgrounds.

Besides meeting the growth needs of the district, basic infrastructure needs are on the list and add up to   roughly $14.82 million. That cost will cover new roofs, replacement of an emergency generator,

doors, windows and flooring as needed, along with new paving and enhanced parking lot designs. Other basic needs include new ceilings, floors, doors, windows, tables, clocks, paving and parking lot improvements.

 

Hamming said the whole bond proposal campaign was a very positive experience. “The community helped us and they carried it through for us at the voting booth,” she said. “The top priorities have been the classroom editions to our elementary schools to address our space crunch.”

School officials said construction will start with meeting the most critical needs of the district. “We will work with our board of education and a construction committee, which includes our architect and construction management firms, to plan and design all of the components of our plan,” Blitchok said.

            In the Caledonia Community Schools, voters Tuesday approved a Headlee override measure that restores the district's non-homestead tax levy to its maximum allotted 18 mills by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. A year ago, voters defeated a similar Headlee override measure by 340 votes, 5,790-5,450.

            “We want to thank the voters of our district for supporting this proposal,” Caledonia Superintendent Dedrick Martin said. “Our school community is growing and to accommodate this growth, we needed to restore the millage rate to the same levels that we have utilized to support school operations for 24 years.”

            The non-homestead levy, which accounts for nearly a third of the district's per-student revenue, applies to businesses, rental properties and vacation homes. It does not apply to homeowners or agricultural properties.

            “This 1.8 mills restores us up to the 18 mills and provides a buffer for future years in the event we experience another Headlee Amendment reduction,” district finance director Sara DeVries said.

         The Headlee rollback is estimated to generate an additional $329,000 of tax revenue for the Caledonia district for the 2020-21 school year. Millage funds will help support day-to-day functions of the school district and security enhancements at buildings and facilities, updated instructional materials and more financial support for music programming and athletics.

            The 18-mill non-homestead levy had passed in 2015, but that tax had been reduced by Headlee rollbacks to 17.6399 mills for the current school year. Restoring the full millage will allow the district to leverage state per-pupil funding and help the district avoid a third consecutive year of lost funding, Martin said.

            “Caledonia Community Schools has a proven track record of success,” Caledonia school board president Marcy White said. “The passage of this millage means we can keep pace with best practices in school safety and better prepare our students for college and careers.”

            The district is expected next year to ask for a renewal of the full non-homestead levy, which generates about $9.3 million dollars in revenue for the schools.

            The Caledonia district includes Caledonia Township as well as portions of Bowne, Cascade, Gaines and Lowell townships in Kent County. It also includes portions of Thornapple Township in Barry County and Leighton Township of Allegan County.

 

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