Residents of Hillsdale County will face two big issues on the March 10 ballot: the presidential primaries and a millage for the Hillsdale Intermediate School District.
Interim County Clerk Michelle Loren said voters can choose to vote in either the Democratic or Republican presidential primary as well as on the millage, or on the millage proposal alone.
Voters will decide on whether to approve the Hillsdale ISD millage that will increase funding for career and technical education through the Hillsdale Area Career Center. The CTE millage is currently set at 0.89 mill, according to Jamie Mueller, principal and CTE director at HACC. The request on the ballot would increase the millage by 0.6082 mill, for a total of just under 1.5 mill.
According to the Hillsdale ISD, residents with a home value at $105,600, and taxable value of the home at $52,800, would owe $32.11 with the millage. Hillsdale ISD Superintendent Troy Reehl said the millage will generate $700,000 for the programs.
According to Mueller, funding for CTE was cut at the federal and state levels over the last few years. Because of this, she said, HACC has had to rely more on funding from millages. The current millage of 0.89 is substantially lower than the CTE millages for Branch, Lenawee, and Jackson counties. This millage increase would help sustain current programs and bring equipment up to industry standard, Mueller said.
“This would allow us not to have to cut programming for the 30% of 11th and 12th graders that attend these programs in our community,” Reehl said.
“Simply, we collect less taxes because we have a smaller tax base, and we levy a much lower millage rate,” she said in an email. “With the substantial cuts in funding, we can no longer sustain the CTE programs we currently are providing, not without the taxpayers’ help.”
Operating on a tighter budget means only being able to provide basic services to students, she said, adding that technical education is most effective when groups have “equipment that is up to industry standard.”
On the benefits of HACC for students, Mueller said students can attend for half a day to gain experience and credentials in programs such as welding, health sciences, engineering, and criminal justice. These opportunities are open to all students in the county, she said. The certifications students receive are recognized in the industry, allowing them to find employment in their field immediately, Mueller said.
“Each instructor is an expert in their field and comes from the industry related to the program they are teaching,” she said. “This brings valuable, real-world knowledge into the classroom.”
CTE is a benefit for students, she said, in that it gives them the opportunity to “be immersed in a profession and get a leg up on the next phase of their life.” The programs allow students to get hands-on experience in a career before deciding what they will do after high school. Mueller said these programs are good for local businesses in the county, as they create a pipeline of future employees.
“The more we can grow that pipeline, the better for Hillsdale County,” Mueller said. “We want kids to gain experience and ultimately choose to live in Hillsdale County, whether they make that choice right after high school or after pursuing post-secondary education and training.”
Mayor Adam Stockford said residents should make an effort to vote in every election, especially when millages are on the ballot.
“We’ve seen for some time now that millage questions find their way onto March and August ballots when voter turnout is low. If you look at election history, millages tend to pass on March and August ballots,” Stockford said.
Stockford also said the issue of funding for skilled trades training is important for Michigan voters in general. There are other ways for trades training to receive funding, but Stockford said this continually gets brushed aside. The frustrating thing, he said, is that state legislators and the governor’s office recognize a shortage of skilled trade workers, but they still give increases in funding to public universities, who go on to raise tuition prices.
“The state is directing some funding to skilled trades, but it’s telling people that it should be done locally. Meanwhile, locally, all the high schools are telling kids that college isn’t for everyone, that what we need is more skilled trade workers,” Stockford said. “You watch the state give huge increases to public universities that have no skilled trade programs. More money than ever is going to places like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Rural areas are scrambling and having to go to voters once again.”