The Macomb Intermediate School District sent out a brochure explaining why it needed a $27 million special education millage that is set to be voted on Nov. 8.

There are a few claims that bear a closer look.

The brochure claims the 21 local school districts and the Macomb Intermediate School District are losing $103 million annually compared to 2008.

The 21 local school districts brought in $1.232 billion combined in total general fund revenue in 2007-08. That increased to $1.248 billion in 2008-09 and then dropped to $1.179 billion in 2009-10, the latest year financial data is available from the Michigan Department of Education. That means the districts saw an overall combined decrease of $37 million the past two years when compared to 2007-08 revenue levels.

The Macomb Intermediate School District’s total revenue dropped from $179.9 million in 2007-08 to $177.1 million in 2009-10.

But Macomb County’s local school districts also have fewer students. Enrollment in the 21 districts is about 1,100 less compared to 2007-08.

The brochure also states, “If approved, local districts would receive additional funds for special education programs. This would reduce financial pressure on local district’s general operating fund, freeing up money for general education programs.”

But is revenue really the issue?

Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, points out that spending has actually increased for those 21 school districts. It went from $1.199 billion in 2007-08 to $1.242 billion in 2009-10.

“They are trying to sell this millage based on declining revenue when the reality may be increased spending,” Van Beek said. “That’s really the question: Is the problem declining revenue or increased spending?”

Macomb Intermediate School District officials didn’t respond to emails seeking comment on the brochure’s claims.

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