Tag Archives: schoolcraft county

What’s with the millage elections?

On Tuesday, five Michigan counties had millage questions on the ballot connected to MSU Extension. Several people have asked me if this is a new trend that we’ve started, and my answer is pretty straightforward: this is not something we have initiated. Certainly, we’ve never had this many millages on the ballot at one time. Prior to this month, we have only had dedicated millage votes for MSUE funding in three counties: Alger, Luce and Schoolcraft.

Luce was the first county to choose this path. In 1992, Luce County was facing revenue shortfalls and had to make tough choices on what to fund and what not to fund in their county budget. The Board of Commissioners decided that there was not enough funding for two popular but non-mandated programs, MSUE and recreation, in their budget, but they anticipated that residents would not want to go without these services. So they asked voters if they were willing to pay an increase in property taxes that would be split evenly between MSUE and recreation programs. Voters approved that and they have voted to renew the millage four times, most recently in February 2012.

Neighboring Alger County found itself in a similar predicament and followed Luce County’s example, holding a vote on a millage dedicated to MSUE, which was most recently renewed in 2011.

Schoolcraft County Commissioners took a similar stance with respect to funding for MSUE in 2011, holding a vote on a millage dedicated to MSUE in February 2011. That millage vote failed as did a follow-up vote late last year. The vote earlier this week was the third time a millage question was on the ballot in Schoolcraft County and it failed by 98 votes this time.

The other four counties that held millage votes for MSUE funding this week were Oscoda, Alcona, Iosco and Shiawassee. The millage passed in Alcona, Iosco and Shiawassee counties and failed in Oscoda. In some of these counties, the push for a millage came from residents who understood that the Board of Commissioners were seriously considering elimination of funding for MSUE in their county and they wanted to be sure that our partnership with the county remained intact.

Whether this becomes a trend or not remains to be seen. And that will be determined by the voters and elected officials of the counties we work with, not by MSU. Our position is that we want to have a partnership with every county in the state so that we can serve all Michigan residents. The county’s responsibility in that partnership is providing space for an office, providing support staff to serve that office, and providing operating funds for our programs. In turn, we ensure access for residents to all of MSUE’s programs and services, we staff at least one Extension educator in the county office, and we provide at least a half-time program coordinator for 4-H programs in the county.

County governments continue to be challenged by limitations on revenues, and the many demands for funding of programs under their responsibility. We really don’t have a stance on how we prefer for counties to provide funding for our programs. That’s a decision best made by elected officials and citizens of each county. But we stand ready to cooperate with counties as needed to help make the case for their support of our programs and presence in every county in this state.

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4-H’ers learn STEM through hands-on ROV experience

Improving science literacy is one of Michigan State University Extension’s targeted programs, part of the “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. It’s also a goal of National 4-H. To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, 4-H is working nationwide to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013.

 To help meet that goal, forty-two 4-H Exploration Days participants from Delta and Schoolcraft counties took part in the building and testing of remote operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon prior to arriving on the MSU campus. A committee of youth planned the Exploration Days side trip and selected the ROV as an activity that they felt had educational value and would interest their peers and help them gain knowledge.

 Youth explored and learned about the physics of buoyancy and balance while working in groups of four to design and build their own ROVs. Once they had their vehicles constructed, the groups tested their ROVs in large water tanks and maneuvered them via remote control to move forward and back, make left and right turns, and dive and surface just like real submarines.

4-H members test ROV

A group of 4-H members tests the ROV they designed and created in a large water tank at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon. Photo by David Radloff

 Delta County Extension educator Dave Radloff explained that the goal was to encourage youth to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics and gain a better understanding through hands-on experiences.

 In addition to the ROV class, participants also spent the night in the USS Silversides, a World War II submarine, where they slept in the same berths as the brave men who once served our country.

 Delta County 4-H Exploration Days participants also explored marketing and communication, and the use of technology by selling, writing and recording radio commercials to raise funds for the trip. The 27 Delta County 4-H members attending Exploration Days this year created 109 radio commercials. A local radio station, Mix106, graciously donated the airtime to make this 4‑H project possible.

 

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Schoolcraft County Extension millage fails

The millage proposed to fund Michigan State University Extension in Schoolcraft County was defeated on Feb. 22. The Extension millage was one of three proposals on a general ballot, all of which failed. I want to thank and recognize Dave Anderson and the Schoolcraft staff who have spent months educating Schoolcraft County voters regarding the millage proposal. The final vote was 41 percent voting “yes” and 59 percent voting “no.” The other two millage issues on the ballot failed by wider margins, with 33 percent voting “yes” and 67 percent voting “no.” It’s disappointing to have the measure fail, yet the higher percent voting “yes” on the Extension millage shows that our programs and our staff efforts to educate voters made a difference.

 The millage election resulted from a decision the County Board of Commissioners made in 2010 to fund MSUE through March 31 from their general fund and then to seek approval of a dedicated millage to provide ongoing funding for the current and future fiscal years. As a result of the millage failure, current funding for MSU Extension ends on March 31, 2011.

 The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to meet tonight (Feb. 24) for their regularly scheduled meeting. Implications of the millage result will be on the meeting agenda. MSUE staff will continue to be engaged in this discussion with the commissioners.

 As you can imagine, this is a difficult time for our staff members in that office. Yesterday afternoon (Feb. 23), Jim Lucas, Steve Lovejoy and Michelle Rodgers spoke with staff members in Schoolcraft County about staffing, programming commitments and operational issues. Staff members will be meeting with their institute directors to discuss programmatic implications in the county, in their individual plans of work and for the work teams. Decisions about office locations and employment will be made in the coming days, pending decisions the board makes tonight.

 We will continue to keep you informed.

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