By MICAH WALKER
Detroit Free Press
Three years after Wayne County voters approved a 2-mill, six-year millage to provide funding for its school districts, another proposal dedicated to after-school programs is making the rounds — most likely landing on the March 2020 ballot.
Campaign committee Wayne Kids Win! delivered almost 90,000 signatures to the Wayne County Clerk’s Office Tuesday in time to be considered on next year’s ballot, said the group in a news release. The campaign hopes to increase access to high-quality after-school programs to children and youth across the county.
Wayne Kids Win! gathered well more than the minimum 53,000 signatures needed from registered voters in Wayne County by Tuesday’s deadline to land on the March 10 countywide ballot. Once the clerk’s office certifies the signatures, the proposal will be confirmed. The Wayne Kids Win! campaign is set to officially kick off in January.
Wayne Kids Win! announced its petition drive in October. A spokesman for the tax backers told Chalkbeat that the committee includes education leaders, law enforcement leaders, elected officials, child advocates, and business leaders. Supporters Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and DTE Energy President and CEO Jerry Norcia.
In addition, The Skillman Foundation has also supported the group by funding research to look into potential public funding options that can help finance after-school programs. The organization then talked to several community leaders, informing them of the benefits of after-school programs and the lack of access in some areas.
“The safety of our kids has never been more important,” said Napoleon in the release. “I am truly excited Wayne County voters have shown support for making this once-in-a-lifetime investment in after-school programs that help keep kids safe and on a positive path.”
The proposal would support after-school programs year-round that strive to improve math and reading skills, help develop work-readiness skills, promote safety and provide recreation opportunities for Wayne County children. The group said a proposed rate of 1 mill would cost the average homeowner an estimated $82 per year, or less than $7 per month. If passed, the proposal will provide stable, dedicated funding to develop and expand after-school programs.
All millage dollars would be reported on a public website and go through an independent financial audit every year to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, said the committee. In addition, an independent oversight board will evaluate programs for effectiveness.
Mark Fisk, a spokesman for the committee,told Chalkbeat that school districts, charter schools, nonprofit organizations and agencies such as parks and recreation departments could be eligible for the funding. He said the money would be collected by the county, but would be administered by the 15-member oversight board and approved by the Wayne County Commission. However, no information was given on how the millage would be split among districts.
The proposal may land in the same year two other education-related millage are expected to be on the ballot for Wayne County residents. In November 2020, the six-year millage is up for renewal, while an 18-mill operating millage for Detroit Public Schools will be on the ballot next August.
The Wayne Kids Win! news comes after Dearborn Public Schools recently rejected a $240 million bond proposal in the November election that would have funded repairs and renovations for the district’s school buildings.
“As CEO of a large business headquartered in Wayne County, I know after-school programs work,” said Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy President and CEO. “They provide kids with the skills needed to compete in a global economy — one that demands a skilled workforce, including skilled trades. Wayne Kids Win! is a unique opportunity for our community to make a landmark investment in the future of our young people.”