Portage school board urges support for countywide special education tax renewal

PORTAGE, MI — The leaders at Portage Public Schools are urging voter support for a countywide millage renewal to fund special education.

The Board of Education voted to approve a resolution in support of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency special education millage proposition during a virtual meeting Monday, Jan. 25.

KRESA is planning to place the tax renewal on the May 4 ballot to fund local district special education programs, according to the resolution approved by the board. KRESA surveyed Kalamazoo County residents in November and found a “very high level of support” for the millage renewal, the resolution said.

The special education millage was first approved in 2015 for six years. If approved, the 1.5 mills for six years would provide funds to local districts to help them pay for their special education costs so they do not have to use general fund monies for the federal and state mandates special education programs and services, KRESA Superintendent Dave Campbell said.

Special education in the Portage district will cost about $2.7 million in the 2020-21 school year, the resolution said.

“If this millage does not pass in May there would be a negative impact on non-special education programs and services,” the resolution said.

Earlier this month, the Kalamazoo Public Schools board voiced support for the same tax renewal.

Voters living within KRESA’s boundaries pay five different taxes to fund educational efforts, including the KRESA General Education charter millage that goes back to the formation of KRESA in the 1960s. Voters also pay for the Career and Technical Education millage passed in 2019 and a millage to pay off the debt from construction of Woods Edge Learning Center and other facility renovations. KRESA’s loans will be paid off in 2021 so this tax will end, Campbell said.

Lastly, voters fund an enhancement millage of 1.5 mills that was first requested on ballots in 2008 and has been renewed every three years since. All of this money goes to the local districts, the superintendent said.

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