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Regional school millage heading to November ballot

Erin Dietzer/The Holland Sentinel • Aug 1, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Public and charter schools in the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District will be asking for some additional funding for voters in the Nov. 6 election.

On July 18, the OAISD Board approved putting a regional enhancement millage on the ballot after districts representing more than half of the local student population expressed support for the measure.

“All but two of the districts had passed resolutions when the ISD voted, and at that point you don’t need any more,” OAISD Deputy Superintendent Julie Gillespie said.

The only two districts that had not opted in by the time of the July 18 vote were Saugatuck and West Ottawa. However, both districts have expressed an interest in the millage funds and have identified possible uses for the millage funds.

Saugatuck Superintendent Tim Travis said in June that funds would be used for lower class sizes and to maintain recently added mental health and social skills services. West Ottawa administrators said the district wants to use additional funds for elementary counselors and smaller class sizes in elementary schools.

Other Holland-area districts said in June that providing better mental health services, smaller class sizes, building upkeep, expanding academic programs and early literacy were all areas millage funding may be used if the measure passes.

The millage would levy 0.9 mill for 10 years on taxpayers in the Ottawa Area ISD, which consists of all of Ottawa County and part of Allegan County. This would cost $45 per year for the owner of a home valued at $100,000.

Michigan schools are set to receive a $120 to $240 increase in per-pupil funding for the 2018-19 school year, the first increase to match inflation in years. Most schools in Ottawa County will receive $7,781 per student, and Saugatuck will receive $8,460 per-pupil. However, education leaders say they are still struggling to provide the core educational services necessary for all students to succeed.

Regional millages were crafted into Michigan law in 1994 as a way for schools to get more revenue when funding from the state is not enough. Since then, seven counties have passed them: Charlevoix, Kalamazoo, Kent, Midland, Monroe, Muskegon and Wayne.

Funding from this millage would be distributed to the general funds of districts in the ISD on a per-pupil basis. For example, Zeeland Public Schools has 6,100 students, which means the district would receive approximately $1.3 million. These funds will go to a district’s general fund, and all millage dollars will be publicly reported on each school district’s website. An independent audit will also be conducted on these funds to ensure transparency and accountability.

Seventeen schools would be eligible for millage funds: 11 public schools and six charter schools.

Public schools in the Ottawa Area ISD are Allendale, Coopersville, Grand Haven, Hamilton, Holland, Hudsonville, Jenison, Saugatuck, Spring Lake, West Ottawa and Zeeland. Charter schools are Black River, Eagle Crest, iCademy Global/Innocademy, Vanderbilt, Walden Green Montessori, and West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics.

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