At this time of the year, with the beginning of a new school year less than a month away, I wanted to highlight the record investments being made in the education of Michigan’s children. This year’s state school aid budget includes more funding than ever before for K-12 students, as well as a per-pupil funding boost for every school district in the state. I am proud to say that for the sixth year in a row, the school aid budget was completed months ahead of schedule. This timely budgeting allows local school officials to plan ahead and properly establish their district’s individual budgets. Funding for K-12 education in Michigan is at the highest level in our state’s history. We are spending $14.2 billion in classrooms to give our children a quality education. We are also identifying and bolstering academically struggling schools to ensure a level playing field for all Michigan students. We are increasing early warning measures to identify school districts with potential financial stresses earlier, so that steps can be taken to avoid more serious and costly issues in the future. I know how hard you work for your income, so we have also worked to reduce school debt, so more of your hard earned tax dollars go directly to the classroom where they belong. I want to ensure all Michigan children receive a quality education, regardless of where they live. The school aid budget approved this year provides an unprecedented investment in our kids so that they have the tools needed to succeed in the future. As always, if you ever have a question, concern, or comment regarding any state issue, please feel free to contact me by calling my toll-free number at (800) 577- 6212, or email me at Aricnesbitt@house.mi.gov.
New tax checkoff makes it easier to donate to the Red Cross
For more than a century, the American Red Cross has helped millions of people — from helping a family after a house fire to responding to tens of thousands of disasters every year. I was proud to support new laws that will give all Michigan residents the opportunity to donate to the Red Cross with a simple checkoff box on their state income tax form. Public Acts 183 and 184 of 2016 create an individual income tax checkoff in support of the American Red Cross in Michigan, allowing taxpayers to choose to make a voluntary donation of $5, $10, or more of their income tax return to the American Red Cross in Michigan. The laws also create the American Red Cross Michigan Fund, which will receive donations from the checkoff for distribution to all the Michigan chapters of the Red Cross. There were eight funds with checkoffs still on the 2015 state income tax form. Those funds raised nearly $600,000 during the 2014 tax year. Michigan law requires a checkoff to raise at least $50,000 in a single tax year for two consecutive years in order to remain on the form. In addition to its humanitarian efforts, the Red Cross also is the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the U.S. and our leading provider of health and safety courses, such as CPR, first aid and lifeguard training. While these donations will have no impact on the state budget, they are an easy way for residents to support a wonderful organization as it continues to make a huge impact in our communities. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.
As our kids and teachers begin heading back to the classroom, it is important to take stock of what we are doing here in Congress to make sure every child has the opportunity for a first-class education. As a father of two, I understand firsthand the importance of ensuring our youngest citizens receive a quality education so that they can succeed in today’s world and beyond. Here in the U.S. House of Representatives, this year we advanced bipartisan legislation that would replace the outdated No Child Left Behind law. It marked the first real education reforms enacted since 2002. The bill, Every Student Succeeds Act, works to reduce the outsized federal role in K-12 education to give more flexibility to local and state officials as well as providing individual school districts with more flexibility in how they operate. It also removes the high-stakes federal consequences for annual assessments and empowers parents here in our community by providing more information about local school performances. It was signed into law by President Obama this year. A quality education is the bedrock of our democracy, and necessary for success in today’s world. One of my greatest pleasures as your Representative is hearing from and speaking to students and teachers around Southwest Michigan. I am one who remains ever-committed to advancing common-sense solutions that help students, parents, and teachers succeed. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my web site: upton.house.gov.
Back to School wellness event
submitted by the Berrien County Health Department
Summer is drawing to a close, which means that parents are getting their kids ready to head back to school. Beyond buying school supplies and new outfits, parents should make sure their kids are healthy and ready to learn when getting back to the classroom. The Berrien County Health Department will host a Back to School Wellness Fair on Monday, August 22 from 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at their office at 2149 E. Napier Ave. in Benton Harbor to help parents get their kids ready for a healthy school year. The Health Department will provide free hearing and vision screenings, immunizations required for school entry, healthy snacks and giveaways for kids of all ages, as well as information about WIC, parenting education, and many other programs and services that can benefit families in Berrien County. “We know that the back to school season is a busy time for everyone, but the Berrien County Health Department is committed to helping make your life easier, happier and healthier,” said Clinical and Community Health Services Manager, Peggy Hamel. In order to help keep children healthy and make sure they are ready to learn, Michigan state law requires that children receive certain immunizations before entering school. Additionally, children entering preschool and Kindergarten are required to have their hearing and vision screened. Parents can find more information about these school requirements and the Wellness Fair at www.bchdmi.org or by calling 269-926-7121.
Investing in Your Future
Consider all aspects of college savings options
It is almost back-to-school time. If you have young children going to public schools, your biggest expenditures may be on pens, pencils and notebooks. But if you want those same kids to go to college someday, you will eventually face considerably larger costs – so you may want to start preparing soon. College is costly. For the 2015-16 school year, the average expense (including tuition, fees room and board) was nearly $20,000 at a public, four-year school, and more than twice that amount at a four-year private school, according to the College Board. Of course, cheaper alternatives are available; your children could go to a local community college for two years at a very reasonable cost, and then transfer to a four-year school. Still, if your child does go on to get a bachelor’s degree, those big bills will eventually arrive. As you consider how you can best deal with these costs, ask yourself these questions: How much can I afford to contribute? As much as you would like to help your children pay for college, you also have to think about your own needs – specifically your retirement. Think very carefully before reducing contributions to your retirement plans, such as your IRA and 401(k), to help fund a college savings plan. After all, your children may be able to get scholarships and grants, and even if they have to take out loans, they will have many years in which to repay them – but you cannot postpone saving for retirement without jeopardizing your ability to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. When it comes to prioritizing your financial goals, putting yourself first is not necessarily a selfish act. What college savings plan should you consider? A number of college savings options are available. For example, you could contribute to a 529 plan which offers potential tax advantages and high contribution limits. You might also consider a custodial account, such as an UGMA or UTMA, although when your children reach the age of majority, they are free to do whatever they want with the money – and their plans may not include college. What will be the effect of a college savings plan on financial aid? When colleges determine financial aid packages, they will evaluate your child’s assets differently than your assets. Your child typically would be expected to contribute 20 percent of his or her assets, while you are only expected to contribute up to 5.6 percent of your assets. Consequently, you may be better off saving for college in your name, rather than your children’s. Under the federal financial aid guidelines, an UTMA/UGMA account is classified as a student asset, while 529 plans are counted as parental assets if parents are the account owners. (The rules on financial aid are not always so clear-cut, however, so it might be worth your while to contact a financial aid officer at a local college or university to ensure that your chosen method of saving will still allow for the greatest possible assistance.) As you can see, you have got several factors to think about when it comes to helping your kids meet their higher education goals. Study up on these options, so you can find the right answers for your family’s needs. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.