Within the small township of Williamstown, four different school districts serve 1,416 families (2000 U.S.Census). Williamston Community Schools services the majority of the townshipfollowed by Haslett Public Schools and Perry Public Schools while Okemos PublicSchools serves the least.
With four different districts it would be assumed that there would be a complexity with the relationship between the township and districts. However, there is notmuch of a relationship according to Williamstown Township Supervisor Mickey Martin.
“We do not directly provide any services to the districts other than what is mandated by the state,” she said. “We handle the districts on a case by case basis and currently do not have any agreements.”
The services that the township does provide are collecting each district’s property taxes and holding elections. Ingham County provides plowing in the winter so busses can commute to the rural areas.
“For two organizations that have different missions I would say that we have very good relations. On issues where our interests merge, such as communications,recreation, or shared resources, I find their input essential,” said Superintendent of Williamston Community Schools Joel Raddatz.
Okemos Public Schools serves 45 township residents. There has never been an issue between the township and the district according to Todd Sharp, the director oftransportation for Okemos Public Schools.
Sharp also explained one of the reasons the township has four school districts. When they were formed each district had to have a certain number of families within its lines. Since the area around Lansing is general rural these districts hadto expand to include land and families that were farther away. To meet their quota of families, Haslett and Perry Public School Districts reach into five different townships, while Okemos Public School District and Williamston Community Schools serve four.
The four districts within the township have four different millage rates. The millage rate is the rate at which property taxes are levied. The districts levy these taxes, but the township collects them.
A mill is 1/1000 of a dollar and can be computed by multiplying the taxable value of the property by the number of mills levied. For Haslett Public Schools it is 38.6527 mills, Okemos Public Schools it is 36.6688 mills, Perry Public Schoolsit is 30.6310 and Williamston Community Schools it is 36.8444.
The population of the township has s significant amount of residents that are in the age range of 45-64 and do not have children in the public schools.Generally in this scenario older residents choose to reside in an area wherethere is a low millage rate. However, Perry Public Schools, which has thelowest millage rate, does not service a significant amount of residents.
“We have very few residents in Perry and the ones that are there are not older,” said Martin.
Another issue with millage rates is that the state of Michigan offers school of choice, a statewide program that is optional. Under Michigan’s schools of choice law, a family’s children can go to any school of choice not just the school in whose district they live. Families would pay their taxes to the district where their house was located, but their children can go to any school district. With this option a family could live within the borders of Perry Public Schools and pay alower rate and send their children to one of the other districts and not have to pay the higher millage rate.
School of choice is a choice for families to make said Irene Hodge the superintendent administrative assistant and Okemos Public Schools. She said going wherever they want can sometimes affect the district, but most of the time it affects the family more because of commuting.
However, according to Raddatz the school of choice option does not impact the schools in the area as much as the Lansing school districts. Because there are more students in the Lansing area and the districts are closer, more students are involved with school of choice, he said.
There may not be a relationship among the school districts and this township, but there are times they work together and are positive. The families also have different tax options and their children can attended any school they choose.