Transportation
6:28 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Many Michigan voters to decide whether to raise taxes to fix their community’s roads

Credit Chelsea Oakes / Creative Commons

Most state leaders agree that Michigan needs to fix its roads. But they’re still struggling with how to do that.

In the meantime, local governments are taking matters into their own hands.

Ionia County and townships in Ingham, Clinton, Bay and Missaukee counties are considering increases. Ottawa and Midland counties and the cities of Tecumseh and Farmington Hills could vote in November. Voters in Grand Rapids extended an income tax increase in May to pay for roads.

Gregg Guetschow is the city manager in Charlotte, another community that will vote on a road millage next week.

He says the election has gotten more attention as the state grapples with what to do to fix Michigan’s deteriorating roads.

"People are able to recognize that what’s happening in Charlotte is not unique to Charlotte. It’s not that we’ve done a worse job than everybody else in the state. It’s just that the conditions that relate to government finance in Charlotte are the same things that exist across the state,” Guetschow said.  

As the state worked to balance its budget over the past few years, Guetschow says local governments got a lot less money; which has, in many cases, help lead to the poor road conditions. He says Charlotte has lost roughly $300,000 a year from the state.

Still, voters in Charlotte have already rejected tax hikes to pay for road improvements, twice. In 2007 they rejected a roughly $3 million bond measure. In 2013 they rejected a city income tax that would’ve raised $1.5 million a year.

This time around the city is asking if voters will approve a millage increase that’ll raise $500,000 a year for five years. Guetschow says it would be a big boost to the city’s current $650,000 road budget, which includes snow plowing and pothole repairs.

“Most people who drive on our streets recognize that they are getting in worse and worse condition and of course after the winter that we’ve had this past year they’ve seen the rate of deterioration actually accelerate,” he said.

Right now 70% of Charlotte’s roads are in fair to poor condition. He says the millage increase would “reverse the slide” by preventing streets that are in reasonable condition from getting any worse.