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Jackson weighing possible May vote on road millage

Jan 27, 2015

The Jackson city council tonight will discuss asking voters for a big tax hike to pay to repair the city’s crumbling roads.

Jackson's roads are a mess. But do city residents want to pay more to fix them?
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Like other Michigan cities, Jackson’s roads have been getting worse for several years.

Now, city leaders think a three mil increase to the city’s property tax can raise more than a million dollars a year for ten years to repair the roads.

Jackson Mayor Jason Smith (file photo)
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“For too long our city has been the victim of terrible streets,” says Mayor Jason Smith in a written statement, “This proposal gives voters a chance to actually fix our streets.”

City officials claim 60% of the streets in Jackson are in need of significant repair or total replacement. Just 5%, or only 7 miles, of Jackson’s streets need little or no repair. 

The timing of the vote in Jackson could be tricky. 

Statewide, voters are also deciding on a one penny per dollar increase to the state sales tax on the May ballot.  Much of that money would also go to road repair and construction.

Placing the question on the ballot has a few hurdles to overcome. 

The Governor’s and Attorney General’s office must review the language of the ballot question.  The city council has until February 10th to submit the ballot question to the Jackson County Clerk to get a spot on the May ballot. 

Another hurdle could be convincing Jackson residents to vote for a tax hike.

Last August, Jackson voters rejected a proposed storm water tax by a two to one margin. The tax would have paid for leaf pick up and street cleaning. Many people in Jackson complained the language of that ballot question was vague and didn’t guarantee the money would be spent as promised. 

Here’s the proposal going before the Jackson city council:

CHARTER AMENDMENT PROPOSAL NO. 1 of 2015

Shall the Jackson City Charter be amended to allow a new additional special tax rate for public streets by authorizing the city to levy an additional millage in an amount of up to 3.0 mills, for ten (10) years, starting with the July 2015 levy (estimated to raise $1,634,000 in the first year), the taxes to be used by the city only for costs related to public street improvement, rehabilitation and replacement within the city? (State law permits a charter limitation of 20 mills. The 20 mill limit would not be exceeded by this amendment).

Yes ___ No ___