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More funding for schools

June 13, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

State Rep. Matt Lori said the equity gap that exists between larger and smaller school districts was narrowed this week, with House approval of Bill 5314, which establishes the School-Aid Fund for the coming fiscal year.

Besides adding $50 in per-pupil funding for all students, the bill also designates another $125 per pupil for smaller schools, closing the equity gap that exists between school districts, Lori said.

Total funding for education in the next fiscal year is $13.9 billion, which is a 4.1 percent increase from last year, Lori said. Early childhood education will receive an additional $65 million, which makes Michigan the leading state in the nation in pre-K funding, he noted.

Commission approves travel request

June 6, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners has approved an out-of-state travel request for a circuit court employee.

At the request of Judge Paul Stutesman, commissioners agreed to the plan for court administrator Kathryn Griffin to attend the National Association for Court Management’s annual conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. The six-day event takes place next month.

As president of Michigan’s NACM, a portion of her conference dues will be covered by the association. The balance will be funded by the Michigan Association for Circuit Court Administrators.

Commissioners approved expenses for airfare, airport transportation and meals. Stutesman estimated the county’s cost will amount to about $1,500.

Commission approves funds

June 4, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

St. Joseph County’s Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to cover a six-digit dollar amount request from Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The commission unanimously approved an allocation in excess of $168,000 to the agency.

What was labeled a one-time request for the funds from CMH sparked a lengthy discussion by commissioners. The five-member panel criticized state legislators for the inadequate funding of the county’s CMHSAS agency.

The shortfall was requested by CMHSAS executive director Liz O’Dell.

Though she was not present Tuesday, O’Dell afterward said the state is simply giving the agency less money than what it takes to service its clients.

She said the agency has a $15 million budget. Its budget, however, is categorical, and the funding for Medicaid Extension – more casually known as Healthy Michigan – has taken a financial toll on the county’s CMHSAS.

Commissioners agreed that she should attend the commission’s June 17 meeting for additional discussions.

Grant received through EPA

June 2, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

St. Joseph County’s grant writer, Lindsay Oswald, has announced details of a $200,000 Brownfield Assessment grant received through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The funds will be used for countywide, petroleum assessment of brownfield properties. Oswald explained that a brownfield site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants.

The purpose of the grant is to provide the EPA a way to work with communities within St. Joseph County to prevent, assess, clean and sustainably reuse brownfields.

Finding money for roads

May 30, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

Action by the state’s elected leaders and money are key solutions to improving the condition of roads in St. Joseph County and the rest of the state.

The solution was detailed Thursday by Christopher Bolt, engineer-manager of the St. Joseph County Road Commission. The Centreville-based agency staged a first-of-its-kind “road summit” that drew more than 60 people to Centreville.

Bolt said the local road commission is in a state of crisis, but without funding to supplement its $6 million annual budget, it will have to continue to do the best it can  with the money it has. Gas and vehicle registration taxes generate about $4.5 million to the department, more than two-thirds of its annual budget.

Another 1.2 million comes from a countywide millage, which is up for renewal in August. In a separate vote also in August, the commission is asking whether residents support a 2-mill increase for road maintenance and improvements.

State Sen. Bruce Caswell, who spoke during the 2 1/2-hour program at the St. Joseph County Intermediate School District, called the gas-tax formula a dinosaur.

Caswell said he supports a 1-cent increase in sales tax, which would generate $1.3 billion annually.

Replacing street signs

May 27, 2014 by Administrator · Comments Off 

White Pigeon village officials have agreed to spend about $2,600 to replace damaged and faded street signs.

During Wednesday’s village council meeting, the seven-member panel heard president Dan Czajkowski explain that many of the village’s signs are difficult to read because of their age and years-long effects of the elements. He said it is a matter of safety that the signs be replaced.

The expenditure, which includes school-zone signs, will come from the village’s streets fund.

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