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Early childhood millage ekes out win in Leelanau County

Dan Wanschura
Interlochen Public Radio

A millage that would fund early childhood development for young children in Leelanau County passed in a close vote Tuesday.


The tax won by just about 100 votes, with 3,343 votes in favor and 3,244 against, according to unofficial election results as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night.


Leelanau County will continue to provide services for families with children under the age of five for the next five years. 


The cash-strapped program will now be able to expand its services to include more guided play groups, home visits with health professionals and mental health counselling for parents.


Retired educator Sue Miller advocated for the millage. She says gaining a steady source of funding will help bring back the 20-year old program that has “shrunk down to skeleton of what it once was.” 


“Having a sense of knowing what’s coming in the next month and the next year makes a difference,” she says. “I look forward to recreating the robust source of support for families with young children.”


The millage had been contentious, with some critics saying those in need already have access to early childhood development services at the local health department and Head Start.


“People look at the numbers of children and they’re so few. But you start with 1,000 children and you add siblings and parents that are all affected,” Miller says.


She says a refined proposal will now go to the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department to get approval and move forward.


IPR will update this story when the final results are posted. 


Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.