GREENVILLE — The Greenville Public Schools (GPS) Board of Education has until its February meeting to decide whether it agrees with a special education millage the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) wants to put on the August ballot.
MAISD Superintendent Scott Koenigsknecht approached the board during its regular meeting Monday night about a countywide millage proposal.
“This is just for dialogue,” Koenigsknecht said and added he was not looking for action on the item until February.
Koenigsknecht said the MAISD is looking to ask the voters of Montcalm County to decide whether to restore the 2.5 mills for special education by voting on a 0.3122 mill restoration and whether to add an additional mill to increase programming and help local district budgets.
However, if the boards of the seven school districts within Montcalm County do not vote to support the millage, the process will not move forward at this time.
Koenigsknecht presented the board with how the millage will affect Greenville if it is approved.
From 2006-2011, he showed that Greenville Public Schools had a decrease in students from 3,891 in 2006 to 3,730 in 2011.
This trend is the same for the county as a whole with 13,211 students in 2006 to 12,243 in 2011.
GPS has had a slight decrease in special education students as well, starting with 606 in 2006 to 547 in 2011.
On average, Greenville has spent about $4,094,981 over the past five years on special education costs and is only bringing in about $1,223,603 on average in special education revenues.
In order for Greenville to make up for the difference, Koenigsknecht said it has to use other resources such as the general fund, which has been about $2,871,378 on average.
He demonstrated to the board that the number of general education students needed to fund special education in 2011 alone was 402.
Currently, Koenigsknecht said Greenville has 93 students who are in MAISD programs, which provide for students from birth to age 26.
If the proposal is passed in August, Koenigsknecht said $1 million of the funds will be distributed back to the seven districts in the 2012-2013 school year. An additional $400,000 will be distributed to the districts each year after based on the pupil count for each school.
The remaining funds will be used to fund MAISD programs and services.
GPS Board of Education Treasurer James Anderson asked Koenigsknecht what specifically the MAISD planned to use its portion of the funds on.
Koenigsknecht said proceeds of the millage would help offset budget deficits and provide additional administrative support for the MAISD’s seven local public school districts. Many people currently perform multiple jobs, he said.
The millage money also would be used to purchase and support new technology, which has yielded positive results in educating special education students.
“I want to know in terms of defining things,” Anderson said and added if an outline is set up beforehand it will help the voters.
GPS Board President Janet Ralph asked why the MAISD wanted the proposal on the August ballot and not November because it leaves only a short time to communicate with the public.
Koenigsknecht said the pros outweighed the cons for August. In August, the proposal will be highlighted as opposed to November when ballots will be hectic with presidential voting.
If the millage does not pass, Koenigsknecht said a per-pupil amount for each student in an ISD program will be billed to the resident district.
Many of the programs and services are mandated and cannot be cut, he said.
The last time voters approved an increase in special education funding was 24 years ago. Koenigsknecht said not only have expenses risen dramatically, but so has the number of students with disabilities, especially autism.
If the proposal does make it to the ballot, Koenigsknecht said it does not have to be approved in each district. It just has to have the majority of the vote within the whole county.