FLINT TWP. — Voters will be asked to approve two millage renewals on the November 3 ballot.
Board members voted unanimously to place a road millage renewal on the ballot but only five of the seven trustees voted for the fire equipment millage renewal. Unless renewed, both millages will expire at the end of the year.
Earlier this year, in the May election, by a close vote of 2,529 to 2,407, voters rejected the ten-year road millage renewal, which some attributed to fallout from being on the same ballot as the soundly rejected state proposal 1 that included road funding.
The township’s road millage is strictly used to repair and maintain secondary and subdivision roads that generally are not eligible for county, state or federal funding.
Voters first approved the road millage in 2006. Township Supervisor Karyn Miller has said that road millage funds paid for about $5 million in local road repair over the past 10 years. The millage funds also have been used for ditching, milling and signal lighting improvements, she said.
The .50 mills renewal would continue a levy of 50 cents per $1000 of taxable value on real and personal property for ten years – 2016-2025. The first year would generate about $399,200 in revenues.
Miller noted that first-year amount is a lot less than more than half-million dollars generated in the first year of the current road millage. The difference is due to declining property values, which have plagued the township budget for several years.
During public comment, several residents in the audience and members of the township Road Advisory Committee spoke n favor of renewing the road millage.
Dave Huffman, who said he generally is against higher taxes, talked about the tremendous amount of work put in by the volunteer Road Advisory Committee members to determine how millage funds were spent. He said the millage was “one of the most wonderful things this community had working for it” and recommended that the township board publicize a list to inform voters about all the projects that were funded by the road millage over the past ten years.
Sentiment did not run as high for the .25-mills fire safety equipment renewal. If voters approve, it would continue a levy of .25 cents on each $1,000 of taxable value on real and personal property for five years – 2015-2020. It would generate an estimated $199,600 in the first year.
Belenda Parker and Barb Vert, the two trustees who voted against placing the equipment renewal on the ballot, both cited the Public Safety Millage that voters approved last November which is earmarked to maintain and improve services in both the police and fire departments. That 3.85 mill levy is estimated to generate about $3 million a year, costing the average homeowner an additional $134 a year.
Assistant fire chief Mike Burkley, who also is serving as interim chief, said the millage money is needed to cover replacement of several pieces of equipment reaching the end of use. He said he would like for the millage to continue for at least one more five-year term.
He presented a 10-year projection for fire equipment replacement through 2020 that includes a fire engine costing $450,000 to replace an engine purchased in 1996. Those projections showed budget deficits without revenue from the equipment millage.
Trustee Parker said she could not support the millage renewal because she believes the $3 million a year generated by the recently passed Public Safety Millage should be enough to take care of needs for fire equipment.
Trustee Barb Vert agreed.
“You are going to have to find way to make that work,” she said, noting that her understanding of the Public Safety Millage was that it would cover cost of personnel and equipment for fire and police. “Both departments need to make that safety millage work,’’ she said.
For those same reasons, last February, Parker and Vert also voted against placing the fire millage renewal request on the May 5 ballot.
Trustee George Menoutes, who also voted against renewing the fire equipment millage in February, said he changed his mind after looking over the long-term expenses Burkley provided and reaching the conclusion that despite a current kitty of about $880,000, it will not be enough to cover all anticipated fire equipment costs during the next four years.
The Fire Safety Protection Equipment Renewal also first won voter approval in 2006 and was renewed in 2010.
Kevin Stiff, a resident and business owner, said he would be in favor of the fire equipment renewal millage if he could be assured the money was properly spent. He questioned the quality of fire trucks being purchased because of high repair costs for failing parts.