millage

Michael Gil / Flickr

"If you want a job done right, do it yourself!"

That old adage seems to be behind the appearance of dedicated road millages on a number of ballots last week around the state. Eric Lupher is president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Lupher says many local communities have decided that if money isn’t coming from higher government, it will have to come from local taxpayers.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week voters in four out of five counties approved special millages to fix and maintain local roads.

Road funding has been a hot topic the last few elections as state lawmakers struggle to come up with a way to fund road repairs.

County Road Association of Michigan Director Denise Donahue says more local governments are asking voters for dedicated road millages.

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.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Like a lot of counties in Michigan, Kent County uses money out of its general fund to pay for services for veterans who live there. Right now that amounts to $8 per veteran. As a comparison, Oakland County spends more than three times as much per veteran. Livingston County spends nearly seven times as much.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some state lawmakers want to limit when local governments can hold property tax elections.

Right now, People in Michigan can find themselves voting on millages in February, May, August or November each year.  

Wayne County / via Wayne County

It's no secret Wayne County is in rough financial shape, with an accumulated deficit nearing $200 million.

County budget officials say a financial review team that could lead to an emergency manager may not be far off.

Yet perhaps all is not lost: those same budget watchers say the county can still get back on the right track.

But their solution is about as politically popular as a property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

Because it IS a proposed property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Chrysler waves the white flag

Chrysler is now agreeing to recall some 2.7 million older model Jeeps. At first, Chrysler refused to recall the cars and the company maintains the vehicles are not defective. Safety regulators say 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty Vehicles can catch on fire when they're rear-ended. The design flaw has killed 51 people in fiery crashes.

Michigan counties will receive disaster relief

President Obama has approved a disaster declaration for 16 Michigan counties hard hit by spring floods. The declaration will help communities repair and rebuild roads, bridges and other public infrastructure damaged in the flooding. This does not include assistance for individuals or businesses. State and federal agencies will soon hold briefings across the state to help communities understand and start the application process.  

The Detroit Zoo and the DIA are safe

Legislation was signed into law yesterday allowing the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts to get millions of dollars in tax revenues as promised from the metro region. Several metro cities were skimming some of the revenue generated by multi-county millages voters approved to support the zoo and the museum.

The Woodward Spine

Some communities in Wayne County have been using tens of thousands of dollars in property tax money intended to support the Detroit Zoo for their own civic improvement projects.

Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties approved a property tax increase in 2008 to help fund the Detroit Zoo. 

But the Detroit Free Press reports some Wayne County cities have collected the tax and spent it instead on sprucing up their own downtowns.  In some years, the money has added up to more than $200,000.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Benton Harbor could face major staffing cuts after voters rejected a millage renewal this week. The cash-strapped city has been under the control of a state-appointed emergency financial manager for two years.

“When I heard the news my heart just sank. I didn’t believe it,” Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower said, calling the rejection “unreal”. The millage helps pay for basic city operations.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower believes voters were misled in part by some elected officials who are against the emergency financial manager.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters face a tough choice on Election Day.

Agree to a big property tax increase…or face even more cuts to the city’s overburdened police and fire departments.

On November Sixth, Flint voters will decide if they are willing to pay an additional 6 mills on their property taxes or about 79 dollars extra a year for the average home owner.    

Supporters say about five million dollars would be raised for police and fire protection.

Flint set a record for homicides two years ago.     And could do it again this year.   Flint’s arson rate has exploded as well.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Volunteers in Kent County are making a last minute push to get out the vote Tuesday. They’ll be knocking on doors and making phone calls running up to Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a county-wide millage increase to renovate outdated buildings at Grand Rapids Community College.

The millage would pay for basic improvements to almost every building on campus.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo courtesy of the DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts wanted to ask Macomb County residents to pay a tax to help bring in much-needed cash for the museum, which has already cut 20 percent of its staff and reduced its budget.

But county commissioners killed the idea.

Wayne County Commissioners last month voted to create an arts authority to look at getting a DIA millage proposal in front of voters.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People supporting a new tax millage for Grand Rapids Community College kicked off their campaign Wednesday. The millage would raise almost $100 million over 20 years pay to renovate almost every building on campus; including the main building constructed 90 years ago.

Students, employers, Democrats and even some Republicans gathered at the school’s Music Center Wednesday morning.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in Kent County will decide on a millage increase for Grand Rapids Community College this May. The college’s board of trustees voted to put the question on the May ballot Monday night.

GRCC’s President Steven Enders says the tax increase is worth it for everyone living near Grand Rapids. “You cannot begin to put a value of the impact of this institution on Kent County and this region. It is just not as simple as counting numbers," Enders said. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes. There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. 

 In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. 

Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year.

Two months into the fiscal year, Lansing city leaders are being warned of a looming multi-million dollar budget shortfall.  Lansing City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose told the city council last night that current budget projections suggest the capital city could be looking at a projected $12 to $15 million budget shortfall next year. 

Council president A’Lynne Robinson says given the past few years, the news isn't unexpected. She hopes a ten month head start will help the city council and mayor deal with the budget problem.  

“We are trying to learn from some of the things we have learned have not been very successful…as far as how we have worked together with the administration…and I think we’ve made some progress.”  

Robinson predicts the administration may want to ask voters for a millage increase to deal with next year's expected budget shortfall. Lansing voters rejected a millage increase in May. That forced deep budget cuts and layoffs in public safety this year.

WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

Voters in Washtenaw County passed a special education millage renewal in yesterday's election. That means local school districts and charter schools in the county will receive about $14 million dollars for special education services. According to unofficial election results released by Washtenaw County, 76% of voters approved the millage renewal.

Heritage Newspapers reports:

The millage is specifically for special education students, who make up about 14 percent of the students within the WISD. The largest number is faced with some form of learning disability, and the second most have a speech or language impairment.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voters in Flint sent a mixed message on public safety on Tuesday. 

 Mayor Dayne Walling was glad to see voters renew a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers.  

 “I’m very pleased to see the voters have overwhelmingly supported the renewal of our police force.   The budget that was proposed to the city council…every dollar that we projected in that budget will now be able to be expected.”

user eyspahn / Flickr

Dozens of communities across Michigan will be voting on millages that will raise or maintain their current property and real estate taxes to support city services and their school systems.

There are also many communities voting for candidates for school and community college boards.

To find election results in your area, you can find a link to your local county's election page on our election coverage map.

Polls are open until 8 p.m.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s election day in Michigan. But few people expect long lines at polling stations across Michigan.

There are dozens of school millage votes and school board elections taking place today in Michigan.  But school races rarely draw large crowds of voters.

There are a few communities voting on controversial, or at least well publicized, issues.

Flint voters are casting ballots on two millages.  One would generate $2 million a year to reopen the city jail. The other would continue to fund a dozen police officers.

Lansing voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes to trim their city’s projected 20-plus million dollar budget deficit nearly in half.

And in Jackson, voters will decide if they want to merge their city police and fire departments into one public safety department.

Testing Time

May 2, 2011

Everyone understands that our cities are going to have to make do with less help from Lansing. In fact, nearly every city, village and township  in Michigan has had a harder time the last few years.

Not only has revenue sharing been cut; declining property values and more foreclosures has meant less tax revenue.

Now, we are about to find out the answer to a crucial question:  Are the residents of hard-hit cities going to be willing to pay a little extra to keep up services and their quality of life?

Tomorrow, a number of cities around the state will ask their residents to do just that. Perhaps the most important of these elections is in Southfield, just north of Detroit in Oakland County, one of the many suburbs that exploded after the coming of the freeways.

Southfield’s gleaming office towers hold a daytime population of perhaps two hundred thousand. But at night, seventy-one thousand people call Southfield home. The city is one of well-kept split levels and ranch houses, with a lovely city center complex and one of Michigan’s newest and largest libraries.

Thirty years ago, Southfield was populated largely by young Jewish families. Today, it hasn’t lost its leafy character, but is now seventy percent African-American. Thanks largely to the recession, housing values have crashed, and so have sales tax receipts.

Mayor Brenda Lawrence and the other city leaders know they are on the point of a knife. They have to keep services up and crime down, or their city could topple into urban decay. They don’t say it aloud, but their biggest fear is that Southfield could become Detroit.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

This week, Flint residents will vote on two millages that could affect crime in their city.  The results may depend on whether voters are more concerned about taxes or about crime. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The impact of the Great Recession continues to be felt as cities and school districts across Michigan seek to raise revenues for basic services.

There's no federal bailout money to help this time around. And the state of Michigan is planning to cut revenue sharing to cities. The state also plans to cut school budgets.

Millages to raise revenue are nothing new, but this time around budgets are strapped. A failed millage could lead to more layoffs of police and fire officials in some cities. And schools might face more personnel layoffs as well.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, voters will decided whether to raise  their property and real estate taxes, or to at least continue them at current levels.

Here's a breakdown of some of the issues that will be on ballots around the state. It's by no means exhaustive. For and exhaustive list, you can check out the Michigan Secretary of State.

Note: One mill is equal to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed value, so if your house is assessed at $150,000, one mill would cost you $150 per year in property taxes.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing voters face a difficult choice in next week’s election.   Increase their city taxes or possibly see deep cuts in public safety.  

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

A bill approved today in the state House would allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to ask taxpayers for more money. The Associated Press reports the bill would:

...allow counties to form authorities that could ask voters for property taxes to fund arts institutes... The property taxes would have to be approved by voters in the region to take effect. Art institute authorities could ask for up to 0.2 mills.

The bill now heads to Governor Granholm for her signature. The state Senate already approved the measure.