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Education is a big issue in northern Michigan, whether we're reporting on school funding issues to breakthroughs in the classroom.

Voters to decide on $14.5 million for Mesick schools

Mesick Consolidated Schools District website

School officials in Mesick say they need $14.5 million to demolish, rebuild and upgrade their schools. Residents in the district will vote on the millage in May.

Scott Akom, the superintendent for Mesick Consolidated Schools District, says their elementary school building is old, needs costly repairs and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He says since their student population has declined they're now only using about 50 percent of the building. Plus, he says, the school comes with a safety risk for the students; it's close to a busy highway.

Akom says the plan is to add an elementary wing to the existing high school and middle school building, because it will cost an estimated $3 million less than renovating the aging school.


The school district held two public forums in March which Akom says were well attended.

"I think a lot of the community understand our needs and the age of the buildings," says Akom, "but also the concerns are it is an increase in taxes. No one likes to pay more in taxes ... especially those that are on fixed incomes or limited income. Every dollar matters." 

The millage is 5.5 mills, which comes out to $5.50 for every $1,000 of taxable valuation. This particular millage comes out to $550 a year for every $100,000 worth of property. But Akom adds, residents in the school district have already been paying a millage.

"Taxpayers are currently paying 3.5 mills that will be dropped off in December. So it would only be a 2 mill increase from what they’re currently paying."

Given that, property owners in the district would pay an increase of $200 a year for $100,000 worth of property.

Akom says similarly high millages exist in neighboring districts like Buckley and Manton. He says it’s been 20 years since the district pursued this type of millage.

The millage would not only cover the cost of a new elementary school, it would also cover roof replacement and resurfacing for the high school, a new gymnasium, new lockers, flooring upgrades, technology upgrades like computer workstations, projectors and electronic devices for each student and secure building entrances.

If the millage passes, Akom says bidding on the building will begin this fall and building and renovation will likely start in the upcoming winter and be completed in 2019. 

Other school districts seeking millages include Benzie Central Schools and Elk Rapids Schools. 

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.