GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state primary election will take place this week. If you’re voting in Kent County, there will be two millage proposals on the ballot that you will vote to renew.

For some, the language has been confusing.

“The ballot text includes some language about districts and authorities that we’ve gotten some questions about. That text is the same as included on the ballot in 2014 for these two millages,” Deputy County Administrator Jennifer James said. “That is not new.”

James is referring to wording on the veterans services millage proposal where residents will continue to pay a .05 mill tax and the senior services proposal where residents will continue to pay a .50 mill tax.

Before you vote whether or not to renew the proposals, there is a paragraph that explains how that money will be distributed.

If the proposals are voted to continue, the amount raised in tax revenue for senior services is expected to be approximately $13.8 million in the first calendar. For veteran services, that amount is estimated at $1.3 million.

A portion of the dollars will benefit those two services; however, several local agencies may also capture some of the funds including but not limited to the following downtown development districts in Ada, Cascade Township, Byron Township, Grandville, Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Sparta, Walker and Wyoming.

“It’s been eight years since the community saw the text on the ballot so it’s not fresh on the mind I’m sure,” James said. “It relates to the state requirement that we indicate any uses of those funds other than the seniors and veterans. That’s why those appear on the ballot. “

The local agencies have benefited from several special millage tax revenues that you may have seen on previous ballots.

The agencies use their portion of the funding to improve downtown areas. Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. manages the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority which voters will see on the ballot.

“Our mission as an organization is to use these resources guided by the community’s vision to
make downtown the most vibrant successful and welcoming place we can,” Bill Kirk, Downtown GR Inc. communications director, said. “Obviously as downtown is getting better that is good for the whole county.”

Kirk added the agencies receive just a small portion of dollars from a special millage and that rather a bulk of funding comes from the county’s general fund.

In 2020, Downtown GR Inc. was one of 27 agencies that captured funding from the 2020 tax rolls of the senior millage that was approved by voters in 2014.

According to the deputy county administrator, a fiscal services report indicated the agencies collectively captured $486,555 of the revenue from 2020 tax rolls which represent approximately 4% of the total revenue that was generated for the senior millage.

“Over the years, we’ve invested considerably in big projects like the arena or the convention center but we also get down to things as small as street enhancements downtown. So, more safe accessible sidewalks and better streets,” Kirk said.

Kirk said Downtown GR Inc. receives a considerable amount of public input and feedback to help them identify the priorities for how they invest those dollars.

The agency is also guided by state law, city commissioners and its board of directors to make sure the funds are being used properly.

To learn more about how each agency will use its portion of the funding, Kirk recommends voters contact those agencies directly. He says Downtown GR Inc. welcomes questions from the public so that voters can make informed decisions come Aug. 2.