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Muskegon voters asked to consider millage increase to fund special education services

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Muskegon Area Intermediate School District says program is "persistently underfunded"

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District is hoping voters this May will approve an increase to the school’s special education millage.

According to the district, the millage increase would help fund special education services in Muskegon County schools, and if approved, the millage is expected to generate nearly $9 million annually.

According to the MAISD, there are 4,000 students in Muskegon County who are receiving special education services, and state and federal law mandates those services must be provided to students with physical, emotional and mental disabilities from birth to age 26.

Karlie Parker, is the Associate Superintendent of Special Education at MAISD. She says, the millage increase is needed because special education in Muskegon is persistently underfunded, and since there are mandates in place, districts have no choice but to find the money elsewhere.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed in education, is the underfunding of special education,” Parker said. “And what that means to Muskegon County is about $20 million annually that comes out of our local districts' general funds."

Meaning?

"It really needs to be understood," Parker said, "that (even when) individual children and individual homes may not be benefiting from special education services, money that comes out of a local district's general fund—(impacts) all students."

Money she says, that is taken away from sports programs, music and the performing arts programs or operational costs to name a few.

So, what would the millage cost?

For an owner of a $200,000 home, with a taxable value of $100,000, the millage increase would translate to $175.00 per year, or roughly $14.60 per month, while the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $88.00 dollars annually or about $8.30 per month. The millage increase would be for ten years.

While both inflation rates and the cost of gasoline have skyrocketed this year, Parker says, she understands that asking for more money might be a tough sell for some voters, but says, the investment will pay off— even to homeowners who do not have children that attend public schools.

"There is a direct correlation between the value of one's home and the quality of the school district in which it resides," she said.

The last time a special education millage was approved in Muskegon County was 1980.

The vote is set for May 3rd.

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