Mental health millage, 911 surcharge to be placed on May ballot

GENESEE COUNTY — After a long Presidential Election cycle in 2020, voters will now be facing two countywide proposal requests at the upcoming May 4 special election.

At its Jan. 27 meeting, Genesee County Commissioners approved ballot language for a new Community Mental Health Millage and a 911 surcharge renewal for the Genesee County 911 Central Dispatch.

The mental health services millage, which was requested by Genesee Health System, passed by a 5-3 vote and received support from Board Chairman Mark Young and Commissioners Charles Winfrey, Ellen Ellenburg, Domonique Clemons and Debra Newman.

Commissioners Shaun Shumaker, Bryant Nolden and Meredith Davis voted against placing the issue on the May ballot. Commissioner Gary Peppin was absent from the meeting.

If approved by voters, the mental health services millage would generate around $9.5 million for additional mental health services in the county in its first year. The levy would be 0.93 mils for 10 years, starting in 2021.

Specific services from the millage would provide law enforcement and first responders with mental health/ crisis training, while addressing court/ corrections mental health supports and services, suicide and crisis prevention, school crisis and de-escalation and health and wellness for vulnerable populations.

The board also approved language for a 911 surcharge renewal by a 6-2 vote. All commissioners except Shumaker and Nolden voted in favor of placing the 911 surcharge proposal on the May ballot.

Pending approval by voters, the 911 surcharge renewal would generate $7 million annually and assess a $1.86 per month charge on all phone lines in Genesee County for a period ending on Dec. 31, 2026.

Although the board expressed support for the 911 surcharge and the emergency services it provides, several commissioners voiced their displeasure with the Genesee County 911 Consortium’s decision to place the issue on the May ballot.

“I would like to publicly make known my disappointment with the consortium on putting this off,” said Commissioner Clemons (D-Flint). “It shows a lack of leadership, putting our local municipalities in a really tough decision to either fund a May election or pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for 911 services.”

Board Chairman Mark Young (D-Grand Blanc) said that the Genesee County 911 Consortium should have decided to place the surcharge renewal on the ballot last August or November, thereby saving local municipalities the cost of holding a special May election.

Altogether, the May 4 election will cost the county around $200,000 to operate.

Some commissioners also raised concerns about millage fatigue and how the proposed mental health services millage will impact the pocketbooks of residents.

“I’m in support of any mental health policy we can move forward with in this county…but we have so many people unemployed,” said Commissioner Shumaker (R-Fenton Township). “We’re asking them to add more money on to their bill. I just think it’s irresponsible for us to hand this cost out to residents right now.”

More information on both ballot proposals will be presented in future editions of the Genesee County View.