Expanded, more inclusive programs part of Public Museum’s future plans

By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma



It has been almost six weeks since the millage for the John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Public Museum passed with overwhelming support and during that period officials have been determining what the next steps will be.


About 63 percent of the votes from the Nov. 8 election favored the millage which will add .44 mills to Kent County residents’ tax bills. For a owner of a $170,000 home, that would be about $37.40 per year increase through the year 2025. Residents will see the increase with their winter tax bill.


Science Tuesdays is one of the programs the Grand Rapids Public Museum is looking to expand.

“It really is a strong level of support for the institutions, both of which have a long history in this community,” said Grand Rapids Public Museum Director Dale Robertson. “It was a nice validation for what we have done and gave us the encouragement to take the dreams and ideas we have for engagement and programs to the next level.


“It told us that the public is right with us on this.”


And museum officials are already moving forward on future programs. In the short term, the goal is to enhance access to the museum’s Science Tuesdays, which provides hands on science stations, by expanding the program to Saturdays. Also to create museum school lessons utilizing the institution’s vast collection that can be made available to all the schools in Kent County.


There are bigger projects down the road such as partnership with the Hope Network Center for Autism in creating a universal design that will accommodate a spectrum of accessible for a broader population, Robertson said. This will mean some physical changes inside the museum.


The millage will bring in about $9.2 million the first year. According to state law, more than $414,000 of the money raised from the millage will go to the 18 Kent County Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts that keep taxes collected on property in their boundaries for local improvements.


The Wyoming Downtown Development Authority would be one such organization, however City Manager Curtis Holt said the DDA would not receive any funds due to negative property value changes in recent years. Traditionally, the City of Wyoming has returned such special millages and in this case would give any additional funds from the zoo/museum millage back to those organizations, Holt said.