GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When West Michigan voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll be asked to choose city leaders and decide on millages and bonds.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest races in West Michigan:
In Grand Rapids’ 3rd Ward, Commissioner Senita Lenear is running for re-election. Kent Boersema is running against her. Boersema previously ran for a 3rd Ward commission seat in 2011. Seats in the 1st and 2nd wards were decided during the August primary, when Kurt Reppart and Joe Jones won seats outright by getting more than 50 percent of the vote.
In Kalamazoo, Mayor Bobby Hopewell is running for re-election. His name will be the only one on the ballot, but community activist Chris Wahmhoff is running as a write-in candidate.
Also in Kalamazoo, three city commission seats are up for election. The top three vote-getters will serve 4-year terms. Commissioners Erin Knott and Jack Urban are running for re-election. Commissioner Matt Milcarek is not running again, leaving an open seat. The other candidates include former commissioner Eric Cunningham, who was appointed to the board but was not elected to a seat in 2015; Leona Carter; and Charley Coss.
The Rapid bus service is asking voters to renew the operating millage for an additional 12 years. The millage makes up about 35.5 percent of the Rapid’s budget. In 2011, voters approved the measure by 136 votes, raising the millage rate for bus operations for seven years. The money was also used to help build the Silver Line and increase service. The millage is set to expire at the end of the year. The proposal before voters Tuesday would continue the current millage rate for 12 more years. The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance has come out against the proposal.
A millage proposal for the Grand Rapids Public Library would continue a tax rate approved by voters in 1997. However, that millage was to fund brick-and-mortar upgrades to library buildings. If the new millage is approved, the money would be available for library operations and other items, not just library buildings. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has come out against the proposal.
In Muskegon County, a new millage would fund and expand the Youth Program. The goal is to give kids more options and keep them out of trouble. Critics say the millage is a shell game intended to free up general fund money to pay for the county jail, which is over budget.
Ferrysburg has two proposals on the ballot:
- The first is a millage to fund needed repairs to Smith’s Bayou Bridge. The bridge is expected to need $10 million in work in the next five years.
- The second proposal came about while the city commission discussed different ways to fund the bridge repairs. It was suggested that the Ferrysburg Nature Preserve could be sold to help raise funds. Under the city charter, three fifths of voters must vote to approve the sale of any city park that is part of the master plan. However, none of the city parks are in the master plan, taking the decision out of voters’ hands. If the proposal on the ballot passes, the city charter would be changed to eliminate the master plan requirement, giving voters a say in any sale of city parks.
SCHOOL BOND PROPOSALS
Wyoming Public Schools is asking voters to approve a $79.5 million bond proposal. The proposal would not increase the tax rate. The money raised would go toward a new freshman wing of the high school, new roofs and mechanical systems for every building, and making changes to parking and traffic flow. The proposal would also include athletic field upgrades.
Greenville Public Schools has a $46.44 million bond proposal on the ballot. This is a smaller version of the proposal that failed in May (which asked for $52.3 million). This proposal removed athletic field and buses, along with some other items. The money raised would also fund renovations for several buildings and technology, along with security upgrades and traffic flow and parking changes.
Grand Rapids Public Schools is asking voters to renew the district’s operating millage. The 18 mills apply to businesses and second homes within the district, not primary residences. The millage makes up more than $30 million of the district’s budget.
The Hastings Area School System has two bond proposals on the ballot: one for $10.5 million and the other for $19.5 million. The first would not increase the current millage rate. Money would go toward future projects. The second proposal is a .5 mill increase to go toward future security and renovation projects.
Coldwater Community Schools has a $29.75 million bond on the ballot. If passed, the district would replace Lakeland Elementary School with a new elementary to be constructed near the high school. The bond would also fund roof replacements, technology and furnishing upgrades, and remodeled locker rooms at the high school.
A $23 million bond for Fennville Public Schools would cover security, technology and building renovations at the high school. Also covered by the bond: a new fitness and weight room addition; athletic facility upgrades, including a new stadium, ball fields and upgraded track; and a transportation facility.
Wayland Public Schools is asking for a $19.25 million bond. If passed, it would not increase the current tax rate. This is a smaller version of two proposals that failed in May (combined, those would have been for about $55 million). This proposal removes a plan for a new elementary school and pool. Instead, there would be renovations to Pine Street Elementary. The bond would also fund an addition to the middle school, technology and equipment upgrades across the district, and security changes.
GET READY TO VOTE
You can find your polling place and view a sample ballot by visiting the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center website.
Polls open at 7 a.m. on Election Day and close at 8 p.m. You don’t need to show photo identification to vote, but it does speed up the process, so the SOS advises you bring your ID.