October 20, 2014

COOR ISD to make second attempt at special education millage increase

By Jeff Patrus
News Editor | news@oscodaherald.com
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ROSCOMMON — The COOR (Crawford, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Roscommon) Intermediate School District is giving a special education millage increase another try.

At its Aug. 10 regular meeting, the COOR ISD Board of Education authorized a special education millage increase proposal to be placed on the Nov. 8 school election ballot. The proposal calls for an increase of .5852 mills, or $0.5852 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation, which would bring the overall special education millage in the COOR ISD to 1.2181 mills.

According to a table provided by the COOR ISD, the millage increase would result in an estimated $1,716,739 in additional revenues for the six districts in the COOR ISD, including $81,287 in Fairview and $192,069 in Mio AuSable.

“The reason we put it on the ballot was because we were asked to do it by the local districts,” said COOR ISD Superintendent Bob Jones. “They were unanimous in putting it back.”

Greg Bush, director of finance for the COOR ISD, said he estimates that the cost for the millage proposal on the November ballot will be between $40,000 and $50,000.

Bush said the May election cost the COOR ISD $17,000.

Mio AuSable Superintendent Gary Wood explained how the millage increase would impact local school districts.

“We don’t have enough to cover our special education needs,” he said. “This will help offset that.”

Wood said students with severe special education needs attend the COOR ISD building in Roscommon, and local students who need special education services, such as speech therapy, depend on the ISD. He said the ISD would bill local districts for those services.

“We don’t have the finances to hire a speech therapist,” he said. “We get billed for them.”

In June, both the Fairview and Mio AuSable Boards of Education formally requested that the ISD place the issue on the November ballot. In addition to the Fairview and Mio AuSable school districts, the districts that comprise the COOR ISD are Crawford-AuSable, Houghton Lake, Roscommon, and West Branch-Rose City.

Jones said the member districts in the COOR ISD asked for the ISD to put the millage proposal on the November ballot due to the high need for funding to support their special education programs.

A special education millage increase of .5852 for the COOR ISD, which would have put the ISD’s special education millage at 1.2181, was on the ballot in the May 3 school election.

However, COOR ISD voters turned down the May 3 millage increase, with a tally of 4,684 no votes (61.9 percent), compared to 2,878 yes votes (38.1 percent). Oscoda County voters, though, showed their support for that millage, voting 215 yes (58.3 percent), compared to 154 no (41.7 percent).

“I think there were issues in certain districts and townships that kind of prevented it from happening,” Wood said of the May vote.

Wood said voters in the West Branch-Rose City school district voted overwhelmingly to reject a bond issue in the May election, and also said that St. Helen residents within the Roscommon Area Public Schools district were upset with their local elementary school closing. Wood said in both instances, voters’ reaction to the special education millage reflected their dissatisfaction with local issues.

Wood also said Houghton Lake Community Schools Superintendent Kevin Murphy was on unpaid leave at the time of the first millage, but has since returned.

Wood said he is hopeful voters in those districts will be more open to the millage.

“I’m very optimistic that this time, it can be done,” he said.

Wood said in the event that COOR voters reject the November millage, things in the Mio district would remain the same, as the district has not budgeted for a millage increase.

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