According to unofficial results from area counties, the West Shore Educational Service District’s special education millage renewal passed during Tuesday’s special election.
The millage renewal passed across the four counties in the WSESD’s service area, with a total of 5,124 votes in favor of the millage renewal and 1,721 votes against it.
“We are extremely grateful that our voters have decided to continue to support our students in special education,” stated WSESD Superintendent Jason Jeffrey. “This is a great day for students, schools and our communities. Thank you, voters.”
In Mason County, the renewal passed with 2,629 votes to approve and 612 votes against.
In Oceana County, the renewal passed, with 1,870 to 889.
In Lake County, the renewal passed, 625 to 220.
The respective counties’ boards of canvassers will meet to review the vote and determine official vote totals.
The millage secures 1 mill — or $1 per $1,000 of taxable value — per year for an eight-year period, from 2022 to 2029. It’s the same rate previously approved in 1990, 1998, 2006 and 2014, and will not lead to increased taxes for residents.
Current property values indicate that the millage will generate $3.4 million for special education programs and services for more than 1,400 students with disabilities in the area.
Jeffrey told the Daily News previously that the millage supports about 16 special education programs. It also supports support services for individuals and small groups, including physical therapy and speech pathology.
Additionally, the millage will fund transportation for students to reach those services, and it will reimburse local school districts for participating in the special education programs. During the past eight years, Jeffrey says partnering school districts have received more than $13 million in reimbursement funds, preventing those schools from having to tap into their general funds.
The WSESD campaigned heavily behind the renewal, meeting with area school boards either in-person or via Zoom, and promoting the election with signs and flyers, because Jeffrey said the district did not want to make an assumption about the result of the election.
The current special-education millage would have expired with the 2021 tax levy. Had voters not approved the Tuesday’s renewal, special education services in the area would have been impacted negatively, according to Jeffrey.
The WSESD serves Ludington, Mason County Central, Mason County Eastern, Gateway to Success Academy, Baldwin, Hart, Pentwater, Shelby and Walkerville schools. It’s non-public partners include Ludington Area Catholic, Covenant Christian, New Era Christian and Oceana Christian schools. It also partners with West Shore Community College and Ferris State University.