MAISD special education millage ‘will support all students’

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 9:32 pm on Friday, May 09, 2014

Montcalm Township husband and wife Ralph and Irene Palmer fill out voter identification cards at Montcalm Township Hall before voting on several ballot proposals during a special election Tuesday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

STANTON — Montcalm Area Intermediate School District staff gathered at their Central Office in Stanton on Tuesday evening to learn the outcome of the special education millage ballot proposal.

As voting results trickled in, votes on both sides seemed to compete in a dead heat for hours. But as the night wore on, the affirmative votes pulled ahead.

In the end, Montcalm County voters handily approved the $2.6 million special education millage by 3,596 “yes” votes to 2,764 “no votes,” or 56 to 43 percent. By approving the proposal, voters restored the MAISD’s special education millage, which was at 2.1878 mills, to 2.50 mills, as well as added another mill for a total of 3.50 mills.

The millage didn’t pass with flying colors in every corner of the county. It was approved by just one vote in Fairplain Township and failed by just one vote in Ferris Township. It was barely approved in one Maple Valley Township precinct and failed in another in that same township. It also failed in Evergreen and Winfield townships.

The millage vote tied in Croton and Nelson townships and failed in Ensley, New Haven, North Plains, Oakfield and Spencer townships — all of which lie just outside of Montcalm County.

As soon as all voting results were in, MAISD Superintendent Scott Koenigsknecht sent out an email Tuesday night relaying the positive news to supporters.

“This evening is an important one in the lives of the children that we serve,” he stated. “The Montcalm Area Intermediate School District is humbled by the support of the voters of Montcalm County. This vote shows just how much the citizens of Montcalm County value of the education of every child in every school building throughout our county. We would like to thank everyone that worked on the campaign. We look forward to working with our local districts as we continue to provide outstanding services for children in the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District.”

The new millage will allow the MAISD to continue to offer free special education services to the more than 1,700 special ed students in Montcalm County’s seven public school districts. A total of $800,000 will go directly to Carson City-Crystal, Central Montcalm, Greenville, Lakeview, Montabella, Tri County and Vestaburg schools.

Had the millage failed, the MAISD wouldn’t have been able to sustain offering free special education services to local schools and would have had to start billing the districts. Those districts would have had to make cuts to general education services, since special education services are mandated by state and federal law and cannot be eliminated.

The rest of the new millage funds will be used to support other MAISD special education services, including the William J. Seiter Education Service Center in Greenville, a special ed school that provides programs, services and eventual job placements to disabled people from infancy through age 26. Some of the funds will also go toward the MAISD’s special ed transportation service, a costly expense as MAISD buses regularly make trips throughout the entire county on a daily basis.

MAISD Associate Superintendent of Special Education Katie Flynn was thrilled with not only the special education millage results, but also the Central Dispatch 911 surcharge and Commission on Aging millage renewals Tuesday night.

“What great results on everything,” she said. “It’s wonderful. It says a lot about the citizens of this county and their support. They really value the services provide.

“We’re so thankful for everyone who participated in the campaign, took tours of the Seiter Center and all of our local school district teams who spread the word,” she added. “This will support all students in our local school districts. Our goal is really to provide more services in our local services for all of the kids and I’m glad we can do that at no cost to them.”

The last time Montcalm County voters approved increasing a special education millage was 26 years ago in 1988. Since that time, the population of children with disabilities has tripled in Montcalm County.

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