By Crystal Hayduk
Registered voters who reside in the Chelsea School District will be asked to cast their votes regarding two separate millages on May 3.
Voting will take place at the usual polling locations.
The Chelsea School District will ask voters to renew the sinking fund to levy up to 0.9250 mills ($0.9250 on each $1,000 of a home’s taxable value annually) for the 10-year period of 2017 to 2026. For a home with a taxable value of $50,000, this would equal $46.25.
A sinking fund is a source of revenue that can only be used for renovations and major repairs to school buildings, as described by the Department of Treasury. Examples of past projects include new roofs, parking lot repairs, and safety improvements. The sinking fund may not be used for general maintenance.
According to information on the district’s website, state funding is currently at about 97 percent of what it was in 2008-09, yet expenses for utilities, supplies, insurance, and retirement have increased significantly. The district’s strategy of paying for repairs with sinking fund dollars will protect general fund money for covering the cost of daily operations.
The board of education has examined the district’s needs annually and levied only what has been necessary. For example, the district levied 0.75 mills in 2015, even though it was authorized to levy up to 0.9250 mills.
Superintendent Dave Killips said, “The sinking fund has allowed the school district to maintain and improve our heavily used facilities to the degree expected by our community. The facilities amount to a significant investment by our community and we have a responsibility to protect that investment. This tax renewal will allow us to continue to utilize our general fund for the education of our students and not pay for improvements and major repairs out of our general fund. The community has supported this financial approach for several decades and, hopefully, will continue to do so.”
Special Education Millage
The Washtenaw County Intermediate School District (WISD) will ask voters to support an increase of 1.5 mills to the current special education millage ($1.50 on each $1,000 of a home’s taxable value annually) for the 10-year period of 2016 to 2025. For a home with a taxable value of $50,000, this would equal an additional $75.
According to information on the WISD website, one in seven students receive special education in Washtenaw County. Children from birth through adulthood who have learning disabilities, impairments in speech and language, and other disabilities ranging from mild to severe are eligible to receive services.
Funds cover a variety of necessary services, including but not limited to therapies, assistive technology, and specialized tools; as well as the teachers and other staff who work with and support the children.
Although the provision of special education is mandated by federal and state governments, the government only covers 34 percent of the annual cost to provide the services. County-wide, services cost about $121 million each year. The federal and state funding together cover $40 million a year.
The current millage raises $57 million a year. The $24 million balance is paid for through the local districts’ general fund.
A millage increase would raise $22 million throughout the county, which would be shared among the districts and would cover 97 percent of the funds needed to pay for special education services.
Killips emphasized that the special education millage benefits all students. “In Chelsea, our general fund contributes between $1.2 and $1.4 million a year to help cover the unreimbursed cost of special education,” he said. “Essentially, this millage would provide an additional $1.2 million to Chelsea on an annual basis, for 10 years, to cover the majority of this transfer out of our general fund. Therefore, this additional millage would be beneficial to all students in our school district as it would free up general fund dollars to be spent on all students.”
More information can be found at www.chelsea.k12.mi.us.
Specific ballot language is available at http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/clerk_register/elections/2016-elections/may_3_2016_proposals.