By Pat Maurer
More than half of Clare County and Gladwin Counties’ registered voters turned out to vote Tuesday and more than half of those voters said they did not want to add 1.5 mills for the next five years to fund technical education and upgrade school facilities in the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District.
Statewide results echoed Clare County’s vote on every one of the State Proposals as well. The closest vote came with Proposal I, the referendum on the State appointed Emergency Manager. Voters turned the measure down by nearly 63,000 votes (1,757,583 to 1,694,851) and by nearly 4,000 (8,367 to 4,597) in Clare County.
Proposals II through VI, all amendments to the State Constitution, also met stiff opposition from Tuesday’s voters voicing a resounding “no” on every one. Statewide more than 2 million voters said no on each one while the yes votes cast for each proposal ranged from just over 1 million to 1.4 million each.
Locally, the RESD proposal was defeated overall 13,595 to 9,402 across the two counties. Clare turned the proposal down 7,361 to 5,026 and in Gladwin County the vote was 6,234 no to 4,326 yes voters.
The answer was a resounding no in all three of the Clare County School districts.
Harrison, with the most voters, came in 3,056 no to 2,018 yes. Farwell also turned the proposal down by nearly 1,000 votes with 2,631 voting no and 1,689 casting a ‘yes’ vote. Clare followed suit but by a smaller margin than the other two districts. The vote there was 1,456 no to 1,188 yes votes.
If it had passed, the proposal would have generated about $2.8 million for each of the five years. Those funds would have been distributed to each of the five school districts and $1.2 million would have gone back to the RESD to fund improvements to the Career Technical Education program while the other $1.6 million would have provided busses, building and technical improvements and energy improvements and maintenance in each of the districts.
Wednesday afternoon Clare-Gladwin RESD Superintendent Sheryl Pressler said, “Clare-Gladwin RESD and local school districts are passionate about providing our high school students with a CTE or vocational experience that not only gives them the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to be career-ready, but also prepares them to compete with their peers in neighboring counties. Without the additional funding provided by the millage, the RESD will not be able to quickly and efficiently improve our current CTE programs for our students; it will take much more time to bring our programs up to industry standards and to create more opportunities for students to earn work-ready certificates. The additional funding would have also allowed us to add vocational programs that prepare students to fill local jobs in growing fields, including Agriscience and Manufacturing. While we are disappointed with the election results, we are dedicated to serving our students and communities as well as we can utilizing the resources we have.”
More than 350 high school juniors and seniors from Clare, Farwell, Harrison, Gladwin, Beaverton and Coleman Schools currently attend CTE classes in Automotive Technology, Computer Technology, Construction Trades, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Early Childhood Careers, Graphic Arts, Health Occupations and Welding. The additional money would have expanded those program offerings including new programs in Agriscience and Manufacturing and added to the Health Occupations program as well. Millage funds would also have covered most of the $2,300 per student tuition now billed to each district lowering the cost to $500 per student.
Clare Superintendent Doniel Pummell said, “It is disappointing that the Enhancement Millage did not pass; however, we must be respectful of the opinions of the voters. In the end, we will pick up the pieces and continue to do our best to use district funds in the most responsible manner to service our students. We will not be able to complete the listing of projects in five years as we had identified in our millage proposal. It is also sad that our students will not enjoy the addition of agiscience and manufacturing at the Clare Gladwin Tech Center. We will also continue to pay the per student tuition for our 75+ students that attend the tech center. All of these items were bundled in the millage proposal. Times are difficult for all. It is my goal to do all that I can to keep programs strong and our district steady and moving forward.”
Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter said, “Even though I am disappointed in the result, I can fully understand the difficulties that families face when it comes to more taxes and money coming out of their pockets. Farwell Area Schools, like all other schools in the RESD, will continue to provide the best vocational education program we possibly can for our students. Vocational education is something I value through my own personal experience. My father made a great living in the trades as a welder/pipefitter. He was a proud member of UA Local 85. I will work as hard as I need to in order to ensure Farwell students are given that same opportunity. With the millage defeat, that job just turned a little more difficult.”
Harrison Superintendent Tom House said, “I certainly understand the economic realities of Clare and Gladwin Counties and of our State and Nation, but I am worried about the young people in our county who choose to pursue a career in a technical field or a skilled trade. I want our young men and women to be trained as well as their peers in the surrounding areas, and I want them to be able to compete for good jobs in these vocations so that they can remain in our communities and continue to be contributing members of our counties and our local economy. I was also hopeful that the local districts, which have been cutting budgets and programs for several years, would be able to make some much needed improvements and repairs to infrastructure and technology and instructional materials without pulling the money from budget items that support programs for our students.”