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Posted on Mon, May 2, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Washtenaw County voters to decide on special education millage renewal Tuesday

By Kyle Feldscher

Voters will take to the polls Tuesday to decide on the countywide special education millage renewal proponents say is one of the most crucial local votes of 2011.

The Washtenaw Intermediate School District is asking voters to approve a .985-mill renewal of the special education millage that will provide about $14 million for local school districts for special education services. Close to 7,000 students in the county receive special education services through local school districts and charter schools in the county, about one out of every seven students.

Local school officials have emphasized that the vote is on a renewal of the millage and is less than the original 1-mill levy passed by voters in 2004. The millage will run for seven years and will cost the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 about $98.50 per year.

Special education services are mandated by the federal government, so if the millage fails, Washtenaw County districts will have to pay for those services from their general funds.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Following are links to articles with more information on the special education millage renewal.

  • For a story on local school officials preparing for the election, click here.
  • For Lucy Ann Lance’s Q & A with WISD officials on the special education millage renewal, click here.
  • For’s editorial on the special education millage renewal, click here.
  • For one reader’s thoughts on why voters should turn down the special education millage renewal, click here.

Some Washtenaw County voters will also approve or deny local public safety millage requests and elect school board members.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2 a.m.

What many people do not realize is that the school systems have been cutting back for the past 5 or more years. Although there is probably additional administrative cuts or consolidations that can be made, they may not be substantial enough to cover the federal mandates that require special education funding. The current budget issues exacerbates the issue. Even if this millage passes (which I truly hope it will), there needs to be pressure put on the local school boards to be creative in finding ways to do more with less.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:03 a.m.

gyre - The budgets disagree with you. In the last 5 years (2004 thru 2009-2010) AAPS's budget has increased by more than 20% - now that includes all sources of revenue - bond funds, sinking funds, special education, grants, federal title money, proposal A, hold harmless, etc. Some will argue that some or most of this money does not count. But the reality is that at least AAPS has seen a continued increase in total dollars available. So much so they spent over $600,000 on renovations of the stands at one football field this year. The budget information was on line at AAPS, and is in the FID database at the state level. The trends in spending are interesting.

Billy Buchanan

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

I plan on voting NO. The way our school systems uses their money they're suppose to for one thing and then usually what they use it for is another. The school system is overloaded with Administrative Officials lay off a few of them and cut other waste and they'ed easily have enought money for "Special Education".


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

I always hesitate to mention common sense because someone will accuse me of something I didn't say. I have lost a child at 4 months of age and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. But special ed funding has increased by 30% in 10 years and by several hundred percent since the 1960's. While federally mandated programs account for some of that increase, the primary reason is simply that, due to medical advances, we have a lot more children who would not have been born with disabilities. Kids born at 26 weeks usually have problems. I can't come to a conclusion myself but I would like to see a real ethical discussion of our responsibility if advances in medicine keep sustaining more and more children who we know will need special assistance. If you, as a parent, choose to do everything possible to artificially sustain the life of a child who would otherwise not be born and do everything possible to integrate that child into society, knowing that the cost must be borne by society, not by yourself, does society have an obligation to spend that much?


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

Alan, I don't have any answers, but I appreciate that you have asked a relevant question. The personal cost of having a handicapped child is very high. The cost to society is also high and growing. At what point is the cost too high? I don't know, but we should be able to discuss it openly.

Dog Guy

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:37 p.m.

I'm not voting today. As a tax consumer, honor requires that I recuse myself.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

It amazes me that all the Republican propaganda has pushed us so far to the right that these people are ready to beat up on kids who need special education. Meanwhile our state gave the wealthiest among us $9 billion in tax cuts over the last 12 years, creating these deficits. Is that what our value system has become - more for the rich and let those with special education need to shunted aside? And please don't say it's because administrative salaries are too high, etc. -- the bottom line is that we're sacrificing these people to provide more money to the richest among us. Very sad.

Dog Guy

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

The April 24 print edition of filled page A3 with two stories: "Special education millage vital to WISD" and "Tax foreclosures set Washtenaw County record". How much money is enough? Does a gold-plated school with all the bells and whistles compensate for a child 's financially failing family? Such questions are not allowed during a taxpayer vs tax consumer class war.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

Dr. I AAPS says they will cut teachers REGARDLESS of whether the millage passes or not. The problem with the millage is that it does not require the extra $14 million to be spent supporting the classroom/children (or bus services or principals), but rather will leave it up to an administration that has already made it clear that teachers, etc., are the first things it intends to cut (vs. administration cuts). Unfortunately, I don't think the voters will approve two education millages (you remember what happened to the two-mil proposal). I would rather see this one fail and then have WISD put one forward that does prioritize keeping those young (and old) teachers you mention. I think that would have broader community support.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

All students benefit from the millage passing. If you like the young energetic teachers in your school, the way they will keep their job is if the millage passes.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 6:42 a.m.

NO MORE TAXES, PERIOD! And no more renewals of these recurring property taxes. I find it particularly despicable and slimy of these "education" tax-promoters who always schedule their "school" bond votes as a special election instead having this issue decided during the fall general elections. These "special" elections are a further cost to the taxpayers and are indicative of the monumental waste in our school system.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 2:42 a.m.

DonBee, I think AAPS could be turned around faster. If they can cut teachers, principals, and bus services as quickly as they propose, why can't they cut the administration infrastructure first and just as quickly? It comes down to priorities. I also agree that we will get one shot to pass an education millage in the near term. Unfortunately, if this is the one that passes (and it looks like it will), we will have no say in how the money spent (supporting the administration vs. supporting the kids with reasonable class sizes). Considering where the priorities appear to be, I am afraid it won't be in the classroom.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 4:35 a.m.

Thorj97 - Unfortunately I have to agree with you.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

Yes, AAPS is wasteful. Yes, AAPS does not even publish the minimum when it comes to financial data. Yes, AAPS does not follow the board directive on the checkbook and quarterly financials. Yes, AAPS hides principals in non-principal jobs. Yes, AAPS pays the new superintendent more than $250,000 a year. Yes, AAPS pays PEG more than $300,000 a year for training that has divided the community. Yes AAPS would rather cut busing than TOUCH the athletic budget. Yes, AAPS did not listen to the public on a number of issues. Yes, there are 11 Superintendents in 1 county and administrations to support them. AND... Yes, if the millage does not pass the special education students will still get services. ... BUT... At this point there is no way to turn the AAPS ship or the other county school district ships fast enough to not impact the students heavily. ... We need to pass this millage. ... BUT ... Do not expect support for any other millages until some of this MESS is cleaned up.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

This is not about AAPS, it is WISD.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

If we DO pass the millage say goodbye to young energetic teachers. Principals, superintendents, and other admin will remain.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 10:56 a.m.

If we don't pass the millage, say goodbye to young energetic teachers.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

I'll vote yes. If this is voted down, there will be further cuts in the general AAPS budget -- which would be a problem, given the tough cuts that are being proposed already (elementary schools without real principals, no buses, etc.) Special ed is mandated, so voting no on this doesn't encourage anyone to be more streamlined, more efficient, more any-other-buzzword-signaling-frugal. It just makes classrooms larger and schools worse places for kids to be. I do not have kids in the AAPS next year, I just think it's the right thing to do.

David Cahill

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

It's great that is doing a simple yes/no poll, instead of one of those polls with various confusing reasons! Please vote "yes". Every vote matters.

Dog Guy

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:55 p.m.

Being a tax-supported teacher, I cannot in conscience vote yes on this millage as that would be flagrant theft. The ads tout "special education," but the money collected will be used in lieu of general funds, so it is all in the same barrel. How anyone not at the public trough votes on this "renewal" of a previous millage sold as a one-time deal is no matter. People who do not scruple to vote themselves or their significant others increased public benefits shall win this time or next. If this millage increase should fail, next time it could be sold as benefitting ducklings.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

Lisa Starfield - Love your logic, but will you vote along those lines? (}:


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

This post is an excellent example of why anonymity in posting on these forums is terrible. If "Dog Guy" truly is a teacher (which I highly doubt), then the person would understand the millage much better. This post should be removed.

Lisa Starrfield

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:23 a.m.

By that same logic, no parent should vote for school millages because they benefit. No employer should vote for school millages because they benefit. No supporter of private schools because they might benefit from a negative outcome. Yes, I am a teacher in AAPS. I am also an AAPS parent whose son recieves special education services. I know what the catastrophic impact this will be on our district on top of Snyder's cuts, on top of last years' cuts. I'm voting yes and, as a teacher who cares about his students' education, you should too.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

If you are truly a "tax-supported teacher", you certainly sound like one that needs to go. Ignorance to the facts (millage increase) when you should know how deep these cuts would really be. If it doesn't pass, I hope you have 63 students in each one of your classes next year.

John B.

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

Sorry, Dog, I don't believe a word of what you are saying.

Kyle Feldscher

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Dog Guy - Just wanted to point out that the millage is less than the 1-mil levy that was approved by voters in 2004 that expired in December. It is not an increase.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

I've only voted in presidential elections. How do I vote for something like this? The same way?


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

Yes, you put an X in the Yes box!

Kyle Feldscher

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

C- As long as you are registered to vote some where in the county, you can go to the same precinct location you vote in presidential elections and the process will be much the same.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

The people served by this millage are truly the most vulnerable in our community, and their families bear a huge burden in attempting to care for them. If we want to continue to call ourselves a community, as a opposed to just a collection of Zip Codes, these are the places we need to begin. Washtenaw County is fortunate to have this millage and the services it provides. There simply is no way to adequately replace those dollars with 'fat' elsewhere in the system. PLEASE vote yes.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

WISD does not intend to use the millage to increase Special Education funding (despite its name). The funding level for Special Education will not be affected if the bill passes or not. The "net effect" is that about $14 million will be freed up for the administration to spend however it likes.

Tom Bower

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Taxable property values continue to fall. The amount of revenue generated with a renewal of this millage will be less than the amount generated in 2004 when property values were substantially higher in Washtenaw County. WISD and the local school districts have done an excellent job of providing services even as revenues have fallen. It's time to renew our commitment to a quality education for all students. It's time to vote YES on May 3.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

Remember that this is not a tax increase. Let's keep Washtenaw a beacon of positive educational opportunity and high quality. Vote yes!


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

Please vote no - Government, at all levels, is just too big and far to inefficient. Governments 'always' need more. Back in the real world - where you and I live - salaries are down, the employed rate has fallen to 1990's level and most citizens have had any savings zapped. We get by with less. Much less. Governments need to work harder, do more, and for less cost. Everyone else does that. More cash does not lead to 'right sizing' government.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:48 a.m.

This is NOT a tax increase. I do not know how anyone can be so selfish to vote down something that will help fund the next generation. The cost for the individual voter is minimal. For every dollar we spend on education is an exponential increase in property values. The schools NEED this money.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

You say government is too big in one sentence and in another you say government needs to work harder and do more. Great rational for voting no!

Dr. I. Emsayin

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 10:53 a.m.

Education is not what is zapping your salary. Lack of it could be.

Dr. Vag

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

Getting upset about what an administrator makes is petty . The cost to the voter of this mill is minimal and goes toward the greater good of what some very special and important students need: fair shot at an education. Please vote YES tomorrow.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

if this millage is passed, does that mean that they will not let go any of the teaching assistants in the schools for the special ed. students?


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 9:40 p.m.

Cash - no, it's not petty to watch your money. What I see -- and I don't know whether this applies to you or not -- is that taxpayers who want to feel okay about voting down a public good will often find some inefficiency to complain about and use as a reason to vote no. But since voting down this millage will not affect the superintendent's salary a whit, it is a red herring to complain about it in this context. You should vote the way you think will bring out the outcome that you prefer with regard to special ed and you should write someone to complain about the secret superintendent's salary if you want. But those are two separate issues, for sure.

Roger Roth

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Hey, what's with the red sox, Dr. Vag?


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Wise use of my money is not petty. As a matter of fact,people who tell me I am petty for being cautious with my small amount of money could be called arrogant.

Tom Bower

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

I agree. And, the millage will support not only special education students, but general education students, as well. If the millage is not renewed, districts will have to spend additional money from their general funds in order to maintain current levels of service for special education students. This will further reduce the amount of money districts will have to spend on general education students. We are voting YES on May 3.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

I agree that it is our responsibility to education all students. Let's EDUCATE them. From the beginning of the administrative list: Superintendent Administrative Assistant Executive Secretary Human Resources & Talent Acquisition Human Resources Assistant Human Resources Technician Secretary, Human Resources Supervisor, Communication Services Assistant Superintendent Controller Budget & Financial Services Manager Business Manager Accountant Accounting Technician Accounting Technician Technical Assistant Technical Assistant Director, Technology & Data Services Secretary, Technology Services Technician, Technology Services Technician, Technology Services Information Systems Manager Information Systems Manager Technical Specialist Technical Specialist Technical Specialist Technical Assistant Technical Assistant Programmer Web Developer If it was possible to work with all districts and combine services, couldn't we save some money?


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:25 a.m.

the salary of the previous AAPS superintendent is much different than the one that was just hired. i don't think you can just look at prior salary anymore, not after what the AAPS BOE allowed.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

Again the salary for the NEW superintendent has NOT been disclosed nor has the range been posted at all.

Tom Bower

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

Sorry, but I disagree. Although no salary figure has been disclosed for the new superintendent, the salary of the previous superintendent is disclosed, along with the salaries of other top earning WISD employees... It's all transparently displayed at the following URL:<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This suggest the compensation range for the position. The compensation information of those in the top 3 percent of WISD is at the following URL:<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Given the operating budget of WISD, a superintendent compensation package of $130,000 to $150,000 is very reasonable, especially when compared to what the compensation would be for a similar position in private business. We are voting yes on May 3.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

Please vote yes - it will not increase your taxes as it is something that we are already paying for. As a matter of fact, I understand that there will be slight decrease. Also, since this type of programming (special ed) is federally mandated, we must still pay for the services. Without the millage, the money will have to be taken out of the regular programming for the schools and cause real damage (thanks to the state cuts in per pupil spending).

Linda Diane Feldt

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Please don't let the results of the poll keep you from voting. The turnout will almost certainly be dismally low, every vote matters. I'll remind at least 20 friends, hope you do the same. And while I hope you'll join me in supporting the millage, the most important point is that we have as much participation as possible.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 6:17 p.m.

I should add that the board hiring the new superintendent said they will make the salary known after the election at the following board meeting.

Tom Bower

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

Although no salary figure has been disclosed for the new superintendent, the salary of the previous superintendent is disclosed, along with the salaries of other top earning WISD employees... It's all transparently displayed at the following URL:<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This suggests the compensation range for the position. The compensation information of those in the top 3 percent of WISD is at the following URL:<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Given the operating budget of WISD, a superintendent compensation package of $130,000 to $150,000 is very reasonable, especially when compared to what the compensation would be for a similar position in private business. We are voting yes on May 3.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

Again, Kyle made me aware that the salary range for the NEW superintendent was not made public and the actual salary will not be made public until after the election.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

Remember voters: WISD hired a new superintendent last week but in an unusual move, did not even list the salary range of that job! This, when districts are merging their administrators. This is a direct slap in the face to taxpayers.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

@Cash - I agree that this was an underhanded move on WISD's part. No question. However, this millage is really not about WISD. It is about supplying funding for Special Ed students needs, and keeping those dollars from being taken from the schools' regular programming. By way of example, for AAPS (the largest district in the county) this funding equates to a little over $6,0000,000.00 per year. Don't kid yourself to think that this, on top of already planned cuts from the state, will not directly impact every classroom in the district.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

It's unfortunate that the Special Education services are another unfunded mandate by the federal government. I want to fund our public schools properly, but it should leverage special needs against regular needs. Who is monitoring how special needs funding is spent?


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

My grandson has had nothing but the greatest help from the WISD and his Special Ed teachers. He's an honor student. Special Ed funds even the playing field for those who need extra assistance.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

Tom's answer left out one of the most important levels of oversight, the parents of special needs children. It is they who have to file complaints with WISD ot the State of Michigan if their child's needs are not being met or if they don't agree that the local school system is providing an appropriate education for their child.

Tom Bower

Mon, May 2, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Many layers of oversight exist. Washtenaw Intermediate School District monitors how special needs funding is spent. For financial information, including the 2009-2010 audit report, see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The Michigan Department of Education also audits WISD and the public school districts, including public school academies. Voting yes on May 3.


Mon, May 2, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

I just found out that after you move you don't get to vote at the new place right away.... but hey, I could still go vote in Ann Arbor.