West Mich. schools stand to lose millions if House road funding plan becomes law

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WEST MICHIGAN -- While there might be little debate over just how bad Michigan's crumbling roads and bridges have become, the debate over how to pay to fix them rages on in Lansing.

In November, the Senate approved a plan that would essentially double the state's gas tax by changing the tax formula on gas, instead levying a sales tax as opposed to taxing on a per-gallon basis.

The latest proposal from state lawmakers out of the House is one that promises not to raise taxes but pulls money from public school districts and local municipalities to make up the difference.

For school districts across the state, including here in West Michigan, it could mean millions in losses, according to new estimates released Wednesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy with data compiled from the Michigan Association of School Boards and the House Fiscal Agency.

The House plan would increase fuel taxes while simultaneously  decreasing the sales tax on fuel, which is currently dedicated to schools and revenue sharing. The move would cost schools roughly $880 million dollars through the next nine years, with an average loss per pupil per year of roughly $475, according to House Fiscal Agency and MASB estimates.

“If this bill goes through, it really will be the death knell for public schools in this state," said Elizabeth Welch, attorney and board member with East Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“This bill would be forcing cuts at a level where districts, there’s just nothing left so if this actually goes through I’m fearful we’re making a decision as a state our public schools just don’t matter any more.”

For school districts across West Michigan, the breakdown of losses per year looks like this:

  • Allegan Public Schools, $1.24 million
  • Battle Creek Public Schools, $2.34
  • Caledonia Community Schools, $2.09
  • Coopersville Area Public Schools. $1.20
  • East Grand Rapids Public Schools, $1.42
  • Grand Rapids Public Schools, $7.59
  • Grandville Public Schools, $2.68
  • Kalamazoo Public Schools, $5.91
  • Kentwood Public Schools, $4.14
  • Muskegon Public Schools, $2.06
  • Portage Public Schools, $4.14
  • Rockford Public Schools, $3.73

Click here to search the Michigan League for Public Policy database to see how your school district would fare.

GRPS, the region's largest school district issued a response late Wednesday acknowledging the need for a road fix, while arguing it shouldn't be "on the backs of school children."

"GRPS recognizes and supports the need for a comprehensive approach at the state level to address Michigan's crumbling transportation infrastructure, but we do not support a solution, like the House plan, that funds it on the backs of school children," said GRPS spokesperson John Helmholdt in a statement.

“We are deeply concerned about the House road plan. At a time when the GRPS Transformation Plan is really taking root and restoring stability to the district -- as evidenced by rising graduation rates and the best Count Day in two decades -- we cannot afford the threat of this legislation and potential loss of millions of per pupil funding dollars."

Republicans in Lansing have argued the House plan factors in projected economic growth over the next six years, something that would bode well for school funding in the end.

Meanwhile for MDOT, which stands to receive about 39 percent of revenue under either the House or Senate plan, communications director Jeff Cranson says they remain privy to a plan that won't divert money from schools, which is in step with Gov. Rick Snyder's stance on the issue.

“It’s a great sign both chambers acknowledge there’s a need, we’ve come that far, but the governor feels the Senate plan goes a lot farther in terms of a sustainable solution and doesn’t do anything that might have a negative impact on schools," Cranson said.

“The day could come where they could say we’ve got to go beyond temporary solutions and close these (roads) down  until we can rebuild them… this isn’t to be taken lightly, this is a big deal and it’s what the governor’s been talking about it since he got elected."

Plans from both the House and Senate will now head to a conference committee where members appointed from both chambers and both parties will work this week to hammer out a compromise bill.

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  • idunno

    idooKnow this last election was Stolen because there is NO WAY people would be STUPID enough to vote in people who had NO PLAN on any issue & who was STAYED on VACATION @ the height of the ISIS & EBOLA crisis?????
    Well NUCLER bomb #1 was just anounnced taking away from the masses of KIDS EDUCATIONNNN.
    Well get ready and REMMEMBERRRR U VOTED or NOT for THEM?????? LOL losers.

    • idunno

      Bye bye Cheaper gas it was good while it lasted 3 months and I hope everybody is ready to take care of their LAYED-OFF relatives. Maybe they can babysit the DISPLACED REFUGE-ED school KIDS???? And WHERE did our FORMER MDOT TAX $$MONEY go towards???? WHOEVER wrote this bill NEEDS TO BE RECALLED, where do I sign!!!!

    • Steve Besser

      Boy oh boy…aren’t YOU butthurt…..what was it the progressive libtards like yourself said in 2008 and 2012 when you elected and re-elected a facist that cornholed the “stupid people” with Obamacare? There was an election, you lost, get over it?????…. Might I remind you, since your short term memory loss due to way too many doobies…..In November, the MAJORITY spoke….We DENOUNCED your liberal lunacy, and its PAYBACK time….get over it!

  • idunno

    Next they going to TANK the ECONOMY to make your PAIN undo ALL the GOOD this President has DONE, and whoever is against Health Care Insurance DROP YOUR AUTO and HOUSE insurance policies. You can AFFORD it.

    • Steve Besser

      we won…you lost….get over it….really, its time to get over it….we have taken the governance back from the mentally ill, with all your politiacally correct BS, your kneejerk progressive forward actions that have reset America BACK more than 50 years…..go beat your bongos….and get over it

  • JB

    Oh, oh, oh and wee, wee, wee, do it for da childrens!
    Same old political BS and tactics.
    The answer isn’t always to ask for “more”.
    There is lot more to leadership than that, and REAL leadership would already know that.
    put on your big kid pants and do with what you got…just like everyone else has to..

  • Pat McCarthy

    What the hell is a “death nail”? The correct term is “death knell”, either the author of the article or the person that comment is attributed to needs some vocabulary assistance.

  • Concerned Voter

    I understand we can’t get back what was supposed to be spent on the roads and stolen to be spent elsewhere. Had this money been properly spent we would not be in the shape we are in. We would however still need to maintain our roads. I say go to a pass system with toll roads for commercial out of state users and out of state travelers. For Commercial use, If your company is not based in Michigan and providing more jobs here than you do in any other state you will need to pay to use the roads. That will stop those who want a store front address. Will it cost us tourism dollars? Most likely not because if you can afford to vacation here a simple toll wont stop you. Residents could easily scan their drivers licens through and save the cost of a pass being generated. This would also generate funds when you remove illegal drivers from the roads. I don’t know the legalities of this as I am not a lawyer but it has to be better than taking money away from an already woefully underfunded educational system. If we continue to underfund the education of our future state leaders we can expect people to continue to leave Michigan for other states or have idiots running the assylum.
    Gov. Snyder you were on the right track with raising money it is all in how you go about raising it in my opinion. Putting more financial stress on Michiganders who can barely afford the basics is not the way to go about it.