Taxation without representation?

Nancy of Grand Haven asked, "I have been the owner of a second home in Grand Haven for 12 years and have continued to support our local schools through the non-homestead millage. I understand the process and am happy to do so despite the unfairness of not having a vote."
Mark Brooky
Feb 10, 2014

Nancy continued: "The general public is repeatedly urged to get out and vote, and constantly reminded that the majority of the operating expenses will be covered by non-homestead homeowners and local businesses. I have never seen a detailed breakdown of the amount of taxes covered by this group as opposed to the amount covered by the homeowners who actually have children in the system.

"While I support our schools, despite having absolutely no vote, I strongly feel that you should be more transparent about the actual numbers. Wording such as 'we are extremely fortunate to be able to generate a large amount of revenue with no impact on taxpayers' is useless."


Nancy requested that the Tribune at least put this taxing process in perspective so when resident voters go to the polling booth, they will be a more aware of "how they are spending other people's money on the continued wish lists of the district."

Keith Konarska, superintendent of Grand Haven Area Public Schools, responded to Nancy with an explanation of the non-principal school tax. He shares that letter with us for the Mailbag answer:

"Hi, Nancy. Thank you for your support of our district and for your suggestions. I am happy to address your questions and offer the following information:

"In total, the 18 mills operational levy brings in approximately $17.3 million from our non-principal residence tax base (non-principal residence tax base, also referred to as non-homestead, includes residential second homes and commercial property). This equates to a local per-pupil amount of $2,795. State aid picks up the remaining amount of our operational funding to bring us up to our foundation grant of $7,290.

* 37% of the tax base used to generate the $17.3 million of non-principal residence comes from Consumers Power.
* Concerning transparency, all taxable values by categories are available on county websites. Additionally, the Michigan Department of Education posts monthly state aid payment summaries online, which include detail regarding local operational taxes collected and the 'state share' they are paying to the district.
* The debt levy collected from non-principal residence (non-homestead) is significantly lower in GHAPS vs. most school districts with smaller tax bases (i.e., no power plant).

"Please know that it has always been our desire to be as transparent as possible. That is why we explain who is impacted by the non-principal residence renewal. As noted above, others in our community continue to share a significant portion of that burden as well.

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to call. I would be happy to meet with you as well. Your support of the schools in our community is tremendously valued and is never taken for granted."

Keith Konarska
Grand Haven Area Public Schools

Do you have a question for the Tribune? E-mail it to, and type MAILBAG in the subject line. Or mail it the old-fashioned way to: Grand Haven Tribune, MAILBAG, 101 N. Third St., Grand Haven, MI 49417. We'll do our best to get you an answer! A new Mailbag appears on three times a week: at 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.



Here we go, I'm about to really tick off some people. $7290 to educate a student is way too high. If that money could be sent back to the families of children instead of school. I bet parents could be more frugal and educate their children better themselves with all online resources and curriculums available. We have computers now. We don't need school systems anymore. People can pool resources to provide vocational/academic education at better cost to young people. It would take a constitutional convention to do away with all property taxation. Our property taxes are too high. And when a person gets 50 years old and develops health conditions and ends up in hospitals - that tax bill still shows up in the mail, and ya can't pay it. And school tax is the biggest chunk. Its rediculas. With all the violence in schools, obesity, lack of exercise, over paid administration. Wouldn't we be better off mandating 8 week vacations for workers like they do in Europe and let people pool their resources and educate their kids without the school systems?


I totally agree with you.


What will happen when progressives politicians convince enough people in Ottawa County, our state and nation that we indeed need to delete the work forces and property that coal generation power plants provide. Will we depend on other forms of electric power generation.

I can envision electric power generation costs rising dramatically over what we currently pay. Here in Ottawa County will County officials and schools be able to live with 37% less in revenue. We can only hope those elected in the future will be selling "limited government".

Tri-cities realist

Just for the record my name is not Nancy, but we apparently had similar thoughts about the non homestead taxes and the lack of a vote for some who pay it.


Will refrain from calling you Nancy. :)


OH sure, dangle that carrot out there and then expect me to NOT go for it. :-/

Tri-cities realist

I fully expected you to take advantage of it, so I'll keep an eye open. I'm sure you won't disappoint, but don't worry, I think I can handle it :)


Ha! I'm not sure whether I should be flattered, or insulted! I hope I can handle the pressure! ;-D


Like Nancy, I have no problem paying tax for the schools. But to have the residents vote to renew a millage that they do not pay for seems weird. On the extreme side, could they put up a vote to increase the operating millage to say 30 mills? Why wouldn't someone vote yes when they do not have to pay for it themselves and reap the rewards?


1976westy, this is part of Proposal A, which changed school funding (back in 1993-ish). Schools are no longer funded solely by property taxes, but a majority of money comes from the state. In order to get that money, though, school districts have to pass the "operating millage" of 18 mils (which is capped at 18 mils, so it can't be higher) on non-homestead properties.

As to the "taxation without representation" argument, businesses and people who purchase investment property frequently pay taxes that they do not vote on, because they aren't residents. However, this is something they are aware of when purchasing a vacation home, investment property, or business.

zwesterhouse, just because someone has access to the internet and books does not mean they would be capable of teaching their children. Some people do currently pool their resources and homeschool, with very mixed results. While my spouse and are are both very well-educated, neither one of us would have been able to teach my children as well as the professionals who have been trained to, and have experience with what works best. Additionally, "giving the money back" to the parents is misleading. Because school taxes come partly from property, but mostly from sales tax, it is actually people who pay lots of sales tax (read: buy expensive stuff) who fund the school aid fund. Your average parent would not be getting much in the way of tax relief if we went with your "abolish the schools" plan. Certainly not enough to even put their child in daycare year-round, since there would be no schools to watch them.

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.