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Northern MI officials hope to add 'cushion' to special ed funding

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Northwest Education Services is asking voters to approve a 0.5 millage levy — not an increase but rather a cushion, officials say, against rollbacks that could be required by law.

Voters will decide Tuesday on funding for special education services for students in northern Michigan.

Northwest Education Services is asking voters to approve a 0.5 mill property tax levy for the next 10 years.

The intermediate school district provides services to school districts in several counties around northern Michigan, including Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and more.

Right now, it levies a millage rate of 2.0 for special education — meaning people pay $2 for every $1,000 of assessed value on their property taxes.

But a 1978 law known as the Headlee Amendment would require the regional school district to reduce that millage rate if property values go up faster than inflation. The district is worried that could happen soon.

So they’re asking voters to approve this levy to provide a buffer against rollbacks.

Northwest Education Services Superintendent Nick Ceglarek says a “yes” vote won’t increase your taxes, but will give the district a way to maintain even funding for about 3,000 special education students in our region.

“We are required by law, and our local districts are required by law to ensure that that student gets what they need in those areas,” he said. “Unfortunately it does come at a cost, and it can be a pretty significant cost.”

He says if the funding from this tax levy is reduced, school districts would have to make up for it from other parts of their budget.

Ed Ronco is IPR's news director.