Reject a Tax Hike? It'll Be Back

Wyoming residents soundly reject millage, school board puts it back on the ballot

In May, 58 percent of the voters rejected a 10-year, 0.5 mill tax for the Wyoming Public Schools.

Three months later, voters will be asked to vote on the same funding proposal as the Wyoming Board of Education voted to put it back on the ballot for an August election.

Wyoming School Board Trustee Mary Vande Water blamed the first rejection on a competing ballot proposal for the Grand Rapids transit system. The voters from the city of Wyoming didn’t support the Grand Rapids transit system ballot proposal but it passed anyway.

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Eric Larson, spokesman for the watchdog group Kent County Families for Fiscal Responsibility, called it “insulting” to the voters to infer they weren’t aware of what they were voting on.

“It’s a lack of respect towards the voters and their voice,” he said.

Larson said if the voters had passed the millage in November, the school board wouldn’t come back three months later to double check that vote.

“They keeping asking until they get ‘Yes,’” Larson said.

Other schools have attempted to get rejected millages back before voters in a matter of months.

In Eaton Rapids, 57 percent of the voters rejected a $25.1 million bond proposal in November, 2010. In February, it was back before the voters again. The reason for a second vote was that just after the November election, the district learned it was awarded a special funding package from the state that would save taxpayers $17 million if the bond proposal was passed.  

Voters weren’t swayed. It was defeated again by 51.5 percent of the vote.

The second-bite-at-the-apple bonds strategy has caught the attention of legislators.

State Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, said he is considering legislation that would mandate a year pass before a rejected bond could be put on the ballot again. And Agema said he’d also like to see all those elections happen in November when there is a bigger turnout.

Just over 6,000 people voted in November in the Eaton Rapids bond vote. Three months later, the turnout dropped to about 2,100.

“I could do that in a heartbeat,” Agema said about the legislation. “Most people in the Legislature are sick of them doing it. If they don’t get their way, the put another one up.”

Wyoming School Board President Deborah Fewless and Vande Water didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

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See also:

Anatomy of How to Kill a Tax Hike

Commentary: Five Easy Questions to Ask School Officials

Coverage of School District Claiming Cuts

Helpful Facts About Michigan's Public Sector