Petition drive to get after-school millage on Wayne County ballot exceeds required signatures

Editor’s note: This article initially appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business. 

Crain’s Detroit Business

The Wayne County Afterschool Partnership’s ballot proposal to garner millage support for after-school and summer programs in the county is headed for the March 10 ballot, contingent upon the Wayne County clerk certifying signatures collected to put it there.

The group of community leaders delivered roughly 90,000 signatures to the Wayne County clerk’s office Tuesday, exceeding the minimum 53,000 signatures it was required to collect from registered voters in the county by the deadline today, it said in a release.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, DTE Energy Co. President and CEO Jerry Norcia and others are leading the petition drive.

As Crain’s reported in mid-October, the group advocating for Wayne Kids Win! effort is seeking a tax of 1 mill over five years, an amount it says is needed to help address an annual $55 million funding shortfall in providing access to after-school programs countywide.

If passed by voters, the millage would provide stable, dedicated funding to develop and expand after-school programs that promote safety, shore up math, reading and work-readiness skills and provide recreation opportunities for Wayne County kids. Those programs, including summer and weekend offerings, are proven to reduce dropout risk factors, improve behavior, boost student achievement and support working parents, the partnership said.

The programs “contribute to a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation that sets the stage for success,” said Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, in a release.

They also provide kids with the skills needed to compete in a global economy, DTE’s Norcia said.

The measure would cost the average homeowner in the county about $82 per year, or less than $7 per month. It would generate an estimated $42.5 million annually to support after-school programs that promote safety, improve math and reading, build work readiness skills and provide recreation for youth in Wayne County.

All millage dollars would be reported on a public website and go through an independent financial audit every year. In addition, an independent oversight board would evaluate programs for effectiveness.

The partnership said it plans to launch the Wayne Kids Win! public awareness campaign in January.

“The safety of our kids has never been more important,” Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said 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.”

Plans for the millage campaign first came to light this summer during the Mackinac Policy Conference.

The Skillman Foundation and Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation helped fund research into potential public funding sources for after-school programs in the county.

As private foundations, the two are legally able to educate the public but can’t take a public stance on the initiative or urge a vote.

The Wayne County effort is modeled on successful dedicated tax campaigns in Philadelphia, Florida, Missouri and other states.

It follows a successful millage campaign in November 2018 in Kent County, near Grand Rapids, to support early-childhood programs.