The Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) staff has been working magic for a long time. Especially when you consider what they have been able to do on an ever-dwindling budget with increasing costs for infants through adults aged 26 who have special needs.
But they simply can’t maintain the pace.
That’s why the MAISD and other local school officials are asking voters to approve a millage request on the May 6 ballot.
The last time a millage request was approved by voters who live within the boundaries of our seven area school districts was 26 years ago. Since then, the number of children who qualify for special education services, many of which are mandated by state and federal law, has gone up and funding has gone down.
In 1988, voters here approved a millage rate of 2.50 mills, but that amount was later cut to 2.19 mills because of the Headlee Amendment, which limits Michigan property taxes.
In an attempt to match needs and requirements with budgets, the MAISD, in conjunction with area schools, has made more than $2.5 million in cuts to special education services and reduced its workforce by 22 percent during the past two decades. In addition, they’ve eliminated or consolidated programs not required by law.
There isn’t anyplace more to trim costs. So, on May 6, the MAISD and local school officials are asking area voters to restore the special education millage to its original 2.50 mills, plus an additional 1.0 mills for a total of 3.50 mills.
If approved, this would generate about $2.6 million, which would allow the MAISD to continue to offer free special education services to the more than 1,700 students who qualify in Montcalm County’s seven school districts.
If the millage fails, the MAISD will not be able to sustain offering free special education services to local schools and will have to start billing the school districts, which already are feeling the financial pinch. State and federal law require schools to offer certain services for students with special needs, which is great and benefits everyone in the classroom. But if taxpayers don’t step up and vote “yes” on this millage request, schools will have to look to their general funding to cover the costs.
The MAISD per pupil special education funding is the lowest in our region. If we pass this millage request, we will then fall somewhere in the middle.
We realize not everyone votes in a May election. We also realize that some may take the position that they don’t have kids in school or that they don’t know anyone with special needs who may be affected.
But we are asking you to cast a “yes” vote on the MAISD special education millage on May 6 knowing that for a relatively small amount of money, you can have a huge impact on the lives of some very special children and adults throughout Montcalm County.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.