Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 31, 2013

Grand Traverse officials to vote on road millage

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Grand Traverse County commissioners will decide tonight whether to allow a road maintenance millage on the November ballot.

Several county board members said they support a three-year, 1-mil request sought by the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, especially in light of stagnant roads funding from the state of Michigan and the federal government.

“We need to get these roads repaired sometime, and no one is going to pay for it but ourselves,” Commissioner Sonny Wheelock said.

The road commission for months considered floating a two-year, 1-mil winter maintenance millage similar to a longstanding millage in Leelanau County.

The proposed ballot language before the county board tonight does not specifically mention winter maintenance, but road commission officials said an approved 1-mil millage will raise between $3 million and $3.5 million for the road commission each year, an amount roughly equal to the commission’s annual winter maintenance budget.

“In effect, instead of having a $12 million budget we’ll have a $15 million budget,” Road Commissioner Bill Mouser said.

The proposed language allows millage funds to go toward winter road maintenance, as well as general maintenance and repairs.

Road board members also said the three-year time frame ensures any future millage renewals fall on even-year election ballots.

A 1-mil levy costs the owner of a home with a taxable value of $75,000 an additional $75 in taxes annually. The road millage would generate about $4.4 million annually with about $750,000 destined for Traverse City and lesser amounts earmarked for the county’s villages.

The millage would be the third local tax increase requested of Grand Traverse County voters this year. Northwestern Michigan College is holding an Aug. 6 special election for an operations millage, and Traverse City Area Public Schools has a two-part capital improvement millage also slated for the November ballot.

County Commissioner Christine Maxbauer said she thinks NMC’s millage should be on the November ballot, too, so taxpayers can see all three requests at once.

“People need to understand what they’re voting for and some need to prioritize,” she said. “Not everyone has a bottomless wallet.”

County Commissioner Larry Inman called the road commission’s 1-mil request “aggressive” but said it’s needed to fix the county’s roads. Inman added it’s important for road commission officials to explain how they will use the millage funding to benefit all parts of the county.

“That’s key behind selling this millage,” Inman said.

Road commission Manager Jim Cook said the commission’s asset management plan first calls for work on sections of Supply, County Line and Karlin roads. After that road officials will use the management plan to identify new projects on an annual basis.