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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Grand Rapids voters could be asked in May, August or November to pay more in taxes to renovate the city's public high schools and build one new elementary school.
School board members were presented with three plans Monday as leaders with Grand Rapids Public Schools look at a five-year strategic plan for the district.
The options are:
- A $212-million plan that would include major renovations for all GRPS high schools
- A $165-million plan, including major renovations to Creston, Ottawa Hills and Union high schools, minor renovations to City High/Middle and minor improvements at the Central High campus
- A $40-million plan focused on maintenance rather than renovation at the high school facilities.
All options include a new Congress Elementary, now housed in one of the district's oldest buildings.
"Our students deserve to have 21st Century learning institutions, as a lot of our neighboring districts already have," board President Senita Lenear told 24 Hour News 8. "Having that environment is conducive to a good learning experience."
Lenear said some of the current buildings targeted for an upgrade are not equipped to handle 21st Century technology.
The middle plan -- the $165 million option -- looks to be gaining momentum, the board president said. Taxpayers approved a bond for just about the same amount of money in 2004 to renovate or rebuild elementary and middle schools.
"They also saw us handle those dollars very well," Lenear said.
The projects ended under-budget and the district had money left over to replace the old Hall Elementary with the new Cesar Chavez Elementary. Ten elementary and middle schools were renovated or rebuilt.
If the board picks the middle option, the district estimates the owner of a home worth $100,000 would pay an extra $91 in taxes or so per year for 25 years.
24 Hour News 8 found for 2010, GRPS had the lowest capital and debt millage rate of the districts that surround it (see below).
But we asked what Lenear would say to someone who says, "I just don't have any more money to give."
"We know that this economy isn't the best right now," she said. "We have postponed this bond. We've been talking about Phase II (of building renovations) since 2004 and it's time for us to take a look to see what we can do for our children."
Looking at other local public school districts and private schools in the city, the board president said, "the buildings their students are in are definitely the buildings that they deserve. And our students deserve the same."
The board could vote as soon as early February to put the question on the ballot. A decision would have to come by late February if board members want a May bond request. They would have more time if they opt for an August or November vote.
Lenear said board members appeared more interested in May or November, rather than August.
A representative from Kent County Families for Fiscal Responsibility , which has opposed some recent tax increases, said the group does not yet have a position on the plan because not enough details have been released. But the group opposes any vote in what it sees as low-turnout elections, Jeff Steinport said, and would oppose a May question.
2010 SCHOOL CAPITAL AND DEBT MILLAGE RATES
Grand Rapids and Immediately Surrounding Districts
Comstock Park 9.16
East Grand Rapids 7.9
Forest Hills 7.4
Godwin Heights 3.94
Kenowa Hills 2.97
Source: City tax data, school systems
A very dangerous situation was averted when crews contained a chemical leak during a fire at a business in Grand Haven Tuesday morning.
World leaders and joyous, singing South Africans honored Nelson Mandela on Tuesday at a rainy Soweto soccer stadium where U.S. President Barack Obama praised him as a "giant of history" and the last great liberator of the 20th century.
Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.