Wayman P. Britt
County Administrator
Kent County Journal
Dear Community Members,
Welcome to our e-newsletter! Our goal with this communication is to keep you informed on the news and developments related to Kent County. We want to ensure our correspondence is not overwhelming and that the content is relevant. With that said, we welcome any feedback as we seek to improve each issue. Please feel to contact us with any questions, insights, or ideas. Also, if you do not wish to receive this newsletter, please hit "unsubscribe" at the bottom of the e-mail.
Kent County Legislative Priorities Addressed During Lame Duck
On Friday, the Michigan Legislature adjourned for the year. Here is a recap of the most notable legislation pertinent to Kent County that currently awaits Gov. Snyder’s signature.

Environmental Clean-Up. The Renew Michigan Fund (RMF) was created to clean-up contaminated sites, provide state oversight of landfills, and for materials management planning and local recycling programs. Instead of raising the state's landfill tipping fees to pay for these initiatives as Gov. Snyder originally proposed, House Bill 4991 would carve out $69 million from the school aid portion of the state's income tax each year, unless the minimum foundation allowance for students falls below the 2017-18 level, to pay for the RMF.

Foster Care Payments . Senate Bill 1232 , sponsored by Sen. Pete MacGregor, would remove the sunset and change the populations levels for a performance-based funding pilot program in the County.

Indigent Defense Fund. Senate Bill 1187 would increase county representation on the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission from one seat to two. 

Property Tax . House Bill 6348 , sponsored by Rep. Rob VerHeulen, would modify the distribution of funds to compensate for losses associated with industrial personal property exemptions and includes a $10 million annual appropriation for county health departments.

Raise the Age . Legislation that would classify 17-year-olds charged with crimes as juveniles versus adults was not passed this term; however, the issue is expected to be introduced again in 2019. We will continue to work with the Legislature to identify adequate funding, so Kent County can adequately provide juvenile justices services to this expanded population.

Supplemental Spending Bill ( Senate Bill 601 H-1). The $1.25 billion supplemental budget included the following highlights for the County: $3.5 million for Lakeshore Regional Entity; $2 million for the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a dredging project on the Grand River between the Fulton Street Bridge in Kent County and the Bass River Inlet in Ottawa County; $1 million to the John Ball Zoo; $5 million to the Grand Rapids Convention Authority; $5 million to the Gerald R. Ford Airport for capital improvement projects; and $2 million to Grand Rapids Whitewater; and approximately $2.3 million for the Kent County Road Commission. Additionally, $9 million was appropriated for PFAS support and response.

We would like to thank Sens. Hildenbrand and MacGregor and Reps. VerHeulen and Afendoulis and our entire delegation for their tireless efforts on addressing our legislative priorities.
Two Kent County Parks Recommended for Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grants
Kent County Parks was recently recommended for two grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) for land acquisition projects. Specifically, the MNRTF recommended a $683,200 grant to acquire 122 acres of land at Lowell Regional Park and a $294,000 grant to expand Millennium Park by five acres.

The expansion at Lowell Regional Park will include a natural area with hiking trails, a playground, restroom, picnic facilities, and parking. At Millennium Park, the development will include habitat restoration, pond fishing, and a connection to the Fred Meijer Standale Trail.

In total, the MNRTF recommended $26 million in grant awards for outdoor recreation development and land acquisition projects to the state Legislature. These recommendations will go to the Michigan Legislature for review as part of next year’s appropriation process. 
Strategic Planning Process Enters the Final Stage
Over the past six months, the County has engaged in a strategic planning process that will guide its leadership through the next five years to better reflect the changing demographics, economics, and needs of the County.

We partnered with Public Sector Consultants , a Lansing-based research and project management firm, to conduct several forward-looking conversations with external stakeholders, elected officials, County administration leaders, and residents on what goals and action items should be included in the County’s next strategic plan. Additionally, a county profile was developed.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the process and we encourage you to forward the online bilingual survey to your networks . We will be accepting input until Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Upon completion of the engagement process, PSC will develop a strategic plan based, in part, on the findings from the stakeholder feedback sessions. The goal is to have the Board of Commissioners review a draft plan in late February and then to publicly release it in March. Additionally, a communication plan will be developed to keep stakeholders informed on the County’s progress against the plan. 
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Are you interested in getting involved in county government?
The Kent County Board of Commissioners is seeking residents who are interested in serving the community through appointment to the several Boards and Committees. If you are interested in applying for an open position on one of our boards, please complete the online application.

Please contact Pam VanKeuren i f you have any questions.
Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage – Request for Proposal Issued for Program Administration
On Nov. 6, 2018, Kent County voters approved the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage Proposal. This six-year millage of 0.25 will be included in December 2018 property tax bills and is expected to generate approximately $5 million a year. The funding will be awarded to community-based programs that:

  • help expectant parents and parents of young children navigate health care and other community resources
  • offer developmental screenings and assistance to those with identified delays, disabilities, or emotional problems
  • provide in-home and/or community-based support to families to improve their children’s health and social/emotional development as well as the bonds between parents and children, and
  • arrange early learning experiences to improve children’s emotional and intellectual skills and the knowledge and skills of parents and other adult caregivers.

Using an open request for proposal (RFP) process , the County will select an independent organization to administer the program. An independent review committee, including but not limited to County Commissioners and administration staff, will then be established to distribute funding to community-based organizations through a competitive RFP process. The allocation of funds will be modeled after the Kent County Senior Millage . Additionally, all millage dollars will be publicly reported and go through a yearly independent financial audit to ensure taxpayer funds are spent wisely.

Any qualified organization interested in bidding on the administration of the millage must submit a proposal by Jan. 4, 2019
Kent County Offices will be closed Dec. 24 and 25 in observance of the Christmas holiday and Jan. 1 in observance of the New Year holiday. The Kent County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Wayman Britt wish you and your family a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season.

PLEASE NOTE: Kent County offices WILL BE open on Dec. 31. The original e-mail stated our offices will be closed on this day and we apologize for any confusion this incorrect information may have caused.
Kent County Administration
300 Monroe Avenue NW
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Tel: (616) 632-7590
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