GENESEE COUNTY – County residents will be asked to approve a .96 mill proposal in the Aug. 7 primary to raise $8.7 million annually for the Flint Cultural Center and the arts throughout Genesee County.
The Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted April 23 to place the tax proposal on the August ballot after the group Citizens for a Better Genesee County brought it to the board Monday for the second time in a year.
The board voted 5-3 in favor of placing the millage request on the ballot, commissioners Ted Henry, Martin Cousineau and David Martin voting against the motion.
Commissioner Bryant Noland abstained from voting.
The commissioners voted on the proposal after a presentation by Randall Thompson of the Citizens for a Better Genesee County and other supporters of the millage.
“We brought this to you last summer and there were some concerns about the timing,” said Thompson. “So we listened and waited. We restructured the proposal so it took into account other groups in the out-county…we think it satisfies your concerns and it remains under one-mill.”
The proposal, if approved by voters in August, would fund the arts and cultural institutions in Genesee County; including the Sloan Museum, the Longway Planetarium, The Whiting Auditorium, the Flint Institute of Arts, and The Flint Institute of Music within the cultural center. Also included would be the Flint School of Performing Arts, the Flint Institute of Music, Flint Youth Theater, the Capitol Theatre, the McCree Theater, Berston Fieldhouse and the Greater Flint Arts Council.
Some of the museums would no longer charge for admission if the proposal passed, while others like theaters and the planetarium would offer discounted admission. For the out-county, groups a total of $500,000 in grants would be available.
The average taxpayer in Genesee County would pay about an additional $48 a year in property tax to the county, if the millage is approved.
Commissioner Brenda Clack (D-Flint) said while she was opposed to the millage when it was proposed last summer, she was now in support of the measure.
“I had some reservations the last time. I was concerned for my community,” she said. “Children need art for the soul. It is an outlet needed by some children.”
Commissioner Ted Henry (D-Clayton Township) said while he supports the arts, he’d rather see an economic development package that would include arts countywide.
“Five hundred thousand (dollars) is a small amount when you compare the population of the county to the city of Flint,” said Henry.
Commissioner David Martin (R-Davison) agreed, saying a primary election was not the place to put such a proposal.
He said the last gubernatorial primary only brought out 14 percent of voters in Genesee County – a number far too low for what he said was an important vote.
“That’s 14 percent of the population deciding to confiscate 100 percent of the tax money from the public,” said Martin. “That’s not going to work in a pure democracy. “
He said what people are more concerned about are potholes, sewers and water in Genesee County.
Commissioner Martin Cousineau (D-Thetford Township) agreed with Martin, saying county voters have more on their minds than the arts.
He was also not in support of only $500,000 of a potential $8.7 million budget going toward groups and programs in the out-county.
Both Commissioners Ellen Ellenburg (D-Burton) and Drew Shapiro (R-Fenton) said the matter should be put to a vote of the people.
The Board of Commissioners meeting was filled with an audience of art supporters as well as officials from some of the entities poised to receive funds from the millage, if approved.