Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

June 20, 2014

Leelanau County to keep tax rate, for now

TRAVERSE CITY — Leelanau County residents will receive a tax bill next month that will reflect no change in the county tax rate.

Commissioners voted 6 to 1 to keep the county’s summer tax rate at 3.54 mills, the maximum allowable amount.

A week ago Commissioner Will Bunek suggested board members consider lowering the rate because of the money that’s accumulated in the county’s general fund balance that now totals about $9.6 million.

“I thought we ought to think about reducing the taxes and try to be a leader in the area to say, ‘Hey, let’s not overtax the people,’” Bunek said.

Bunek was the lone opponent on the tax rate vote. He surprised county officials last week when he suggested lowering the tax rate, a figure that has to be finalized by the end of June.

County commissioners agreed to consider the issue again when they review next year’s budget.

“I would support a reduction after I’ve had a chance to perform proper due diligence,” said Commissioner Melinda Lautner. “The timing wasn’t right this month, but as we go into the 2015 budget discussion in July, I will bring this issue up. That’s the proper place for the discussion.”

Bunek said his vote was to indicate he wanted to continue a conversation about lowering taxes.

County officials told commissioners they should consider paying off unfunded liabilities to reduce the fund balance before lowering the tax rate.

“It’s a very good discussion to have and it’s plausible to have the millage reduced, but there have to be steps taken to ensure that the county can continue providing the same level of service that it does today,” said John Gallagher III, the county treasurer.

The tax will bring in about $8.5 million, said Chet Janik, the Leelanau County administrator.

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