VAN BUREN COUNTY, MI — As votes were tallied late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, the majority of residents supported a tax increase to fund the Van Buren County intermediate school district’s special education programs.
As of 7:50 a.m. March 11, support led by nearly 3,000 votes for a 0.9-mill increase for five years to raise nearly $4 million per year for special education programs in the ISD’s 11 school districts.
According to unofficial election results Tuesday, March 10, 10,183 voters (58.5%) voted for the millage request, while 7,226 voters (41.5%) cast ballots against the millage request. These results do not include all absentee ballots.
Voters in Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Allegan, Berrien and Cass counties voted on the proposal.
Superintendent Jeff Mills said as results were coming in Tuesday that he was excited to see that millage would pass.
“I am very appreciative — on behalf of the board and staff members — that the voters approved this,” Mills said.
The current special education tax is levied at a rate of 3.3177 mills. The increased millage increase will raise $3,730,173 per year for five years, for a total of $18,650,865 over the five-year period, the ISD said.
The millage will fund both operational costs for individual school districts and renovations for Van Buren ISD facilities that serve students with disabilities from all 11 districts, the ISD said. The school districts in the ISD include Bangor, Bloomingdale, Covert, Decatur, Gobles, Hartford, Lawrence, Lawton, Mattawan, Paw Paw and South Haven schools.
For the owner of a home with a $100,000 property value, the new tax will cost $45 per year.
The funds will be used for renovations, a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, new flooring in classrooms, asphalting the parking lot, a building remodel at the Special Services facility and upgrades at the Behavioral Education Center with potential new programs and services offered, the ISD said. The projected cost of the projects is $8.5 million, the ISD said.
The funds will also increase special education reimbursement to the 11 school districts in the ISD by $2 million.
The ISD currently reimburses $1 million to the districts for special education. The new millage would provide an additional $2 million, for a total of $3 million in reimbursements to the districts. The schools would pay 63% of their special education costs for a total of about $5 million.
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