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GH school board terms expand to six years

Kyle Moroney • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:32 AM

Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in November 2011 that now requires school board elections to be held on an even year and during general elections in November. The move was spurred to save districts money.

Donna Bylenga, director of business services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, said the district will not likely see much of a savings from the new election law. The district has to hold the 18-mill nonprincipal property tax levy election in May or risks losing taxes associated with the Headlee override if they wait until a November election, she said. That move would financially hurt the district, she said.

The nonprincipal tax levy was approved by district voters Tuesday, but for just one year.

May election costs for the district can range up to $23,000 to as low as $16,000 if it is shared with another municipality, according to Bylenga. The district does not pay for November general elections.

Under the new law, potentially four of the seven Grand Haven school board candidates would be up for re-election every four years.

To avoid that major overhaul, the school board is changing its policy — staggering board members’ expiration terms.

“The board carefully reviewed the options … and they truly felt that the six-year terms would improve the stability of the board and we wouldn’t have a point in time where there would be a turnover with the majority of the board,” Superintendent Keith Konarska said. “They felt that in the best interest of the district, that stability is critical.”

Typically, school board elections in Grand Haven are held in May. This is the first year Grand Haven school board candidates will be included on a November ballot, Konarska said.

The two school board seats up for election in this year’s Nov. 6 election will remain, but will be for six-year terms. Those seats are held by Dave Davis, who has been on the board since 2007; and the seat currently held by Christine Bakker, who was recently appointed to fill vacated by Jennifer Williams earlier this year.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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