BY ANNE STANTON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Folks on the street don’t seem to be paying much attention to today’s vote on a proposed tax increase for the local community college.
“I’m not voting. I don’t know anything about it. I didn’t do my homework,” said Michelle Anderson, a server at Seven Monks Tap Room. She added she moved here in February and isn’t up on local issues yet.
Marge Slack, a retiree, said she hasn’t paid much attention to the election. She said it’s something she’d support after being told the requested millage would boost revenues for Northwestern Michigan College’s operations.
“But I’m not voting,” Slack said.
Anderson and Slack were among a dozen Grand Traverse County residents interviewed Monday who said they weren’t intending to vote.
NMC is asking for a .4042 mill property tax increase over 15 years to help pay for college operations, such as instructor salaries, administration, supplies and maintenance. The millage will raise $1.7 million in the first year it’s levied if approved by voters.
Today’s special election will cost the college an estimated $68,000, but the early date puts the request in alone and in front of November millage requests by Traverse City Area Public Schools and the Grand Traverse County Road Commission.
Elections held in August typically have lower turnouts than the November general election. Grand Traverse County Clerk Bonnie Scheele encouraged people to vote.
“Otherwise you have 15 percent of voters deciding the outcome for everyone,” she said.
The proposed .4 increase would restore the college’s operating millage to the 2.5742 level that voters approved back in 1995. The Headlee amendment has reduced the rate to 2.1700 mills since then. The Headlee amendment and Proposal A work together to ensure property tax revenues — based on taxable values — don’t exceed the rate of inflation. If they do, the Headlee rolls back the millage to adjust dollars.
Most NMC college students interviewed Monday were also unaware of the millage. Others like Pajas Erickson, 19, knew about the request, but added she didn’t know enough about NMC’s budget to vote.
“I’m a student here, not an educator, and can’t see things that need to be improved,” she said.
Dave Young, a veteran studying social work, said it bothers him that NMC officials haven’t specified how the money will be used.
“If you’re going to ask someone for money, at least say what it’s going to be spent for,” said Young, 52. “That’s common sense to me.”
NMC President Tim Nelson said the millage will help support operations for 15 years and that’s too long of a time span to say exactly how funds will be used. State law forbids him from making threats or promises, such as the impact on tuition levels, although he can objectively provide information on the projected use of funds.
“Operating funds are used to provide labor, salaries, benefits, technology, maintaining the campus, and allowing us to build out programs, and that’s what this is for,” he said.
Culinary arts student Casey Se Graves, 26, said he’ll vote “yes” because funding higher education builds a better society in the long run.
“Right now, we are putting more money into our prisons than our education system,” he said.
Se Graves hopes the increase will help NMC expand from a community college to a four-year university.
“They really, really should be a university,” he said.
Voters asked to ante up for roads, college and schools
Northwestern Michigan College will float a 15-year, .4-mill tax increase to all Grand Traverse County voters. If approved the new millage would raise about $1.7 million this year for the community college's operations, such as salaries, supplies and maintenance.
- Green Lake Township residents will be asked to approve 1.93 mills for emergency, fire and ambulance services. The request includes a renewal of 1.5 mills plus an additional .43 mills to raise $484,144 in the first year it's levied.
- Residents of Union and Fife Lake townships who live within the Forest Area Community Schools district will be asked to renew one mill for five years to continue a sinking fund for the construction or repair of school buildings.
November 3 Vote
- The Grand Traverse County Road Commission is asking for a 1-mill levy for three years to fund road repairs and maintenance. The levy would raise about $4.4 million annually.
- Traverse City Area Public Schools is asking for a $35-million, .20-mill proposal that includes reconstruction of Interlochen, Eastern and Glenn Loomis elementary schools, bus and technology replacements, and security upgrades at Central High School and West Middle School. The second is a $13-million, .09-mill proposal for auditorium reconstruction at Central High School.
If voters approve the proposals from NMC, the road commission and TCAPS, most county property owners will see their annual tax rates increase by 1.69 mills, or $169 for a home with a taxable value of $100,000.
Green Lake Township vwould pay roughly $193 on top of that if the township millage goes through, assuming a home of a taxable home value of $100,000.