MOISD millage renewal on Nov. 3 ballot

Millage would provide $2 million to local districts each year

BIG RAPIDS — On Nov. 3, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a special-education millage renewal for the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District that would effect all six school districts.

The millage originally was passed in 2007, providing special-education funding for Big Rapids Public Schools, Chippewa Hills School District, Crossroads Charter Academy, Evart Public Schools, Morley Stanwood Community Schools and Reed City Area Public Schools.

The bond has contributed about $2 million to the MOISD each year, which was split up among the districts. The amount each district received from the millage depended on the schools individual special-education needs.

“Some students require nurses, some need master-level providers and some need two paraeducators,” said Curtis Finch, MOISD superintendent. “Depending on what the student’s disabilities are determines what the schools receives.”

On election day, voters will decide whether to renew the millage to once again provide the districts funds for special-education students.

“The average cost per student in special education is not the $7,000 we get from the state per student, it’s a mix between $12,000 and $30,000 depending on the student’s needs and the type of teachers we need to hire,” Finch said.

The millage will be a 10-year, 1-mill renewal for 2017, providing the districts financial support for 1,700 special-education students in the MOISD. One mill equates to $1 per $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.

Similar to all of the districts in the MOISD, RCAPS use the funds to provide high-quality services for all special-education students.

Through the grant, the district received $335,000 for special-education funding.

“We provide a numerous amount of services for our special-education students. Without the millage, we are forced to use money from our general fund,” said Tim Webster, RCAPS superintendent.

According to Finch, the MOISD Education Center does receive a small amount of the funds, but much less compared to the school districts because the center receives funding specifically for the education center students.

The MOISD provides services for special-education students who require more attention, while the schools provide services as well.

“We don’t want to use money from the millage, we want to shovel it over to the local schools,” he said.

Included in the 1-mill proposal will be a renewal for 0.16 mills lost by the Headlee Amendment.

“The amendment says if your taxable value goes down, which we know it has in Mecosta and Osceola counties, then the tax rate goes down,” Finch said. “For example, the 1 mill that we levied in 2007 is down to 0.86. So part of the renewal will be to bring back the 0.16 mills which was lost. Basically we are going back to 1 mill.”

With the help of the Headlee Amendment, the MOISD can ask voters for a renewal of 1 mill instead of 0.86.

“The No. 1 reason for this millage is because of the impact special education has on general education funds,” Finch said. “If this doesn’t pass, then each district has to come up with special-education funds regardless because districts are required by law to provide for special-education students. Districts would have to either use money from their general budget, or cut programs and staff.”

CHSD received $450,000 each year from the millage to provide funding for special education.

“Without the millage, the funding would come out of our general funding,” said Bob Grover, CHSD superintendent. “By taking out of our general funding, it’s a big impact because we have a limited fund balance to begin with. Taking from the fund balance takes away from our school programs.”