Muskegon Area ISD asking voters to increase special education millage in May election

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) will ask voters on the May 3 election ballot to consider increasing funds for special education to give all students a competitive advantage.

There is a significant gap between what special education mandates cost and what the federal and state governments pay, according to an April 12 MAISD press release. For decades, officials say Muskegon schools have had to cover portions of this gap out of their general fund.

“Last year, public schools (in Muskegon County) had to take $20 million out of general fund to pay for those mandated services,” said Benjamin Kalb, director of communications for MAISD.

The ballot proposal requests a 10-year, 1.75-mill increase to the ISD’s special education millage that is currently 2.2815 mills. If approved and levied in 2022, the millage would generate approximately $8.7 million.

The cost to an owner of a $200,000 home, with a taxable value of $100,000, would be $175 per year, while the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $88, according to MAISD.

“If you’re on the fence, you can’t ever go wrong when you invest in kids,” Kalb said.

If the proposal passes, each school within the district has different plans on how they’d use the extra money, such as remodels and repairs, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) upgrades, and new textbooks.

Currently, there are 4,000 students in Muskegon County receiving special education services. Officials say nearly 50% of special education costs are not funded by state or federal sources.

The revenue from the millage would benefit all students in Muskegon County by returning an average of $390 per student to a local school’s general fund. Those schools would have control over how they use the additional $390 per student, Kalb noted.

The distribution of funds would be determined by a formula collaboratively developed by local school business managers. The last time a special education millage was approved in Muskegon County was in 1980.

Some Ottawa County voters will be eligible to vote on the proposal because how the district boundaries are drawn.

The Muskegon Area ISD created a list of frequently asked questions about the proposal that is available on its website here.

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