Do I Vote Yes or No on the Special Education Millage Nov. 8?
Before heading to the polls, read what supporters and opponents of the millage have to say.
It’s decision time in Macomb Township.
The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and voters have 13 hours to pass or reject a proposed special education millage, the proceeds of which are slated to fund special education programs in Macomb County's 21 school districts and the Macomb Intermediate School District.
The 1.2-mill property tax proposal, which is around $100 per year for local taxpayers, is expected to raise $27.5 million, or $206 per pupil across the county when first levied in 2011. According to the MISD, this is approximately one-fourth of the $785 per student funding local schools are losing annually as compared to 2008.
In Chippewa Valley alone, 1,793 students, or 11 percent of the district, currently benefit from special education programs and services–a $15 million a year budget cost. While $9 million of the $15 million is funded by state and federal grants, the remaining $6 million must come from the district's general education fund.
With the passage of this millage, Chippewa Valley Superintendent Ron Roberts said the district would be able to offset some of this $6 million cost, and use the funds that would normally have been used for special education for general education programs.
"If the proposal doesn’t pass, we will have an increased burden to provide services to students currently served by MISD programs," Roberts said, in a previous interview.
However, Macomb Township resident and Republican activist Rob Montilla does not share this view.
“This tax increase is a bad idea and a way the education special interests have found to offset the revenue cuts from the state budget,” Montilla wrote in a recent blog post. “There is no clear or defined purpose for this tax increase but the proponents of the measure are hoping to catch voters unaware during an off-year election for most of the county.
“If this passes, this will set precedent for how you the taxpayer will continue to be responsible for these districts’ lack of fiscal discipline.”
In the first three years of the proposed 20-year millage, Chippewa Valley, as one of the largest districts in the county, would receive approximately $3.3 million annually. For the remaining 17 years, it would receive around $1.7 million annually. Because the millage is designed to support MISD programs first, districts would receive less funding in the last 17 years, but county students would still have the benefit of MISD programs.
According to MISD statistics, one in every seven students in the county receive some form of special education–be it speech and language therapy or classroom services.
The 1.2-mill increase equates to $1.20 per thousand dollars of taxable value, meaning a homeowner with $59,630 taxable value would pay 20 cents per day, or $71.56 per year.
Homeowners can calculate their exact cost with a special program on the MISD website.
Let’s Put it to a Vote
What: Macomb Intermediate School District Regional Enhancement Special Education Operating Millage Proposal
When: Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where: Check Patch’s interactive map to find your precinct location.
Ballot Proposal Language
Shall the limitation on the amount of ad valorem taxes which may be imposed on taxable property in the Macomb Intermediate School District, Michigan, be increased by 1.2 mill ($1.20 per thousand dollars of taxable value) for a period of twenty (20) years, 2011 to 2030, inclusive, as new additional millage to provide operating funds to enhance other state and local funding for local school district special education operating purposes? It is estimated that 1.2 mill would raise approximately $27.5 million when first levied in 2011. Yes or No.
Why Vote Yes?
According to the MISD, if this proposal passes, 100 percent of the funds raised would stay in Macomb County and go toward special education services in local districts, in turn relieving the pressure on districts’ general operating budgets and freeing up general operating money to educate all students.
In Chippewa Valley, L’Anse Creuse, Utica and New Haven, teachers and other staff have already taken wage cuts, wage freezes, and reductions in benefits to control costs.
The MISD and local districts also save money by sharing career prep courses, local and center-based special education programs, common student information systems, financial, personnel and payroll services, and by participating in bulk purchasing of technology, buses, diesel fuel, maintenance, and classroom supplies, according to the MISD.
Why Vote No?
The Republican Committee of Northern Macomb County recently passed a resolution to not support the millage proposal for these reasons:
“In a struggling economy where families are still working hard to make ends meet, this is not the time to discuss a tax increase of any kind. We call on the school districts of the county to instead look for ways to manage costs and streamline services in order to better accommodate the needs for all of Macomb County’s students.”