Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 16, 2013

Grand Traverse prepares to vote on roads millage

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners want to see ballot language before they consider approving a roads millage for November’s ballot.

The Grand Traverse County Road Commission formally proposed a winter maintenance millage to the county commission last week, about a month after the county board rejected a road board request for a 50-50 split of a $6 million bond to fund road repairs.

County commissioners have said they will support a winter maintenance millage, but want to know exactly how a ballot proposal will read before signing off on it.

Ballot language was a problem when voters rejected a 2010 road millage, partially due to concerns about how additional revenue would be equitably dispersed among townships, county Commissioner Larry Inman said.

“There was not a clear direction as to the allocation of those funds and what roads would be repaired on what timeline,” Inman said during a commission committee meeting.

Road commission Manager Jim Cook pointed out the 2010 millage sought a tax increase for general road repairs. A 2013 ballot proposal would raise money specifically for winter maintenance.

“That’s something people get equally,” Cook said during the committee meeting. “They see it. They see it every day we get snow.”

Road commissioners want to ask voters for a two-year, 1-mil increase in November. The millage would generate over $4 million a year if approved. The road commission would receive about $3 million with the rest of the revenue going to Traverse City, Kingsley and the county’s villages.

Road commission plowing costs totaled more than $3 million last winter, roughly 25 percent of the organization’s overall budget.

A successful millage would free up that money for road repairs and maintenance, Cook said. Any millage funding not spent on snow removal would go toward the same ends.

The road commission and county attorneys will work on the ballot language during a study session today. Cook hopes to present the ballot language to the county board during a July 31 meeting.

Road Commissioner Marc McKellar said the language needs to specify that any money left at the end of the winter will not spent on summer road repairs and maintenance, not operating costs or equipment purchase.

“I’m all for a millage, with these caveats,” he said.