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Benton Harbor residents vote on school district funding

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -

Voters in Michigan are hitting the polls.

And in Benton Harbor, choosing a presidential candidate isn’t the only big decision residents are facing. Also on the ballot are two operating millage proposals.

Tuesday afternoon Benton Harbor High School welcomed voters in the first and third wards.

They are not only casting their vote for the presidential primary, but also for the future of their neighborhood schools.

“We need everything that we can to keep this schools open and keep these teachers teaching,” said 48 year Benton Harbor resident Linda Brown.

The first proposal is an 18 mills non-homestead operating millage renewal.

It is a 10 year property tax levy on commercial and industrial properties.

The second proposal is a “Headlee Hedge”, a backup of sorts to ensure the district there is no loss of revenue.

BHAS Chief Financial Officer Scott Johnson said this millage is the primary source of local revenue for the district.

“This millage is very important for the district. It represents approximately 20% of our total general fund budget,” Johnson explained.

And it generates over $6 million to fund day-to-day operations.

“Utilities, bus fuel, natural gas, textbooks and other teaching supplies,” Johnson went on.

It also covers employees’ wages and benefits.

“They closed up a lot of schools around here and the kids need their schools. And they need more books and more computers and everything,” 35 year Benton Harbor resident Michael Moore explained.

The chief financial officer is optimistic the district will gain voters’ support, as the school district continues to dig itself out of debt.

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