Crain’s: Petition drive launched to get after-school millage on Wayne County ballot in March

Petition drive launched to get after-school millage on Wayne County ballot in March

by Sherri Welch, Crain’s Business Detroit


  • Wayne County Afterschool Partnership launched the petition drive Wednesday
  • Measure would produce about $42.5 million in annual funding for after-school programs in the county
  • Advocates seeking to get measure on March 10 ballot

A group of community leaders operating as Wayne County Afterschool Partnership has launched a petition drive to collect signatures to get a ballot proposal supporting after-school and summer programs on the county’s March 10 ballot.

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.

The effort, dubbed Wayne Kids Win!, 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, the measure 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, Skillman Foundation CEO Tonya Allen said in an email to partners in the effort.

The rate would cost the average homeowner in the county about $82 per year, or less than $7 per month.

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, the partnership said.

Wayne County Afterschool Partnership would need to collect 53,000 signatures from registered voters in Wayne County by Dec. 3, to appear on the March ballot.

“By increasing access to high-quality after-school programs, we can help all Wayne County kids achieve and succeed, whether that means college, technical school, jobs right after graduation or thousands of career opportunities in the skilled trades,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in the release.

It’s incumbent on local leaders to continue to prepare children in Wayne County with the skills needed for 21st-century jobs, Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy President and CEO, said in the release.

“The Wayne Kids Win! proposal will help open the door to these rewarding, good-paying jobs and set our children up for success in a highly competitive modern workforce.”

As Crain’s reported in June, 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.

Skillman Foundation, “a long-time and steadfast supporter of afterschool programs,” according to Allen, spoke with many community leaders, informing them of the benefits of after-school programming and the gaps in access.

The Wilson and Skillman foundations funded research to look into the best-practice models around the country on after-school or out-of-school programs for high school students that foster emotional and social learning and provide 21st-century job skills in areas such as robotics, literacy or finance and entrepreneurial programs delivered by nonprofits including Junior Achievement and FIRST Robotics.

That research also explored revenue models to pay for those programs, including sales tax, a “sin tax” on marijuana and a millage, Wilson Foundation CEO Dave Egner said in June, but landed on a millage as the best option.

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.


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