Ballot initiative for after-school tax in Wayne Co. moves forward

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Organizers of a ballot initiative to provide dedicated funding for after-school programs for children in Wayne County submitted nearly 90,000 signatures to the Wayne County Clerk's Office on Tuesday.

The group "Wayne Kids Win!" announced it delivered the signatures in an effort to place a proposal on the March ballot that would increase access to after-school programs to all children and youth countywide.

Campaign spokesman Mark Fisk said the proposal would support after-school programs that promote safety, improve math and reading skills, help develop work-readiness skills and provide recreation opportunities for Wayne County children.

Once the Wayne County Clerk certifies the signatures, the proposal will be confirmed to appear on the ballot, Fisk said.

The request is for 1-mill for five years. It would raise $42.5 million in the first calendar year. The fund is subject to an independent annual audit and will disclose all spending on a public website, according to the proposed ballot language.

Fisk said if approved by voters, the funds would address an annual $55 million funding shortfall in providing access to after-school programs across Wayne County.

The fund would be administered by staff of an independent nonprofit to be identified by a 15-member oversight board appointed by the Wayne County Commission.

Campaign officials say after-school programs, including those provided over summer and weekends, are proven to reduce drop-out risk factors, improve behavior, boost student achievement and support working parents so they can keep their jobs and support their families.

Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy Co. president and CEO and a supporter of the campaign, said he knows after-school programs work.

“They provide kids with the skills needed to compete in a global economy — one that demands a skilled workforce, including skilled trades," Norcia said. "Wayne Kids Win! is a unique opportunity for our community to make a landmark investment in the future of our young people.”

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, a supporter of the ballot request, added he is excited county voters have shown support for making a "once-in-a-lifetime investment in after-school programs that help keep kids safe and on a positive path."