Voters to decide countywide mental health millage, 911 surcharge

GENESEE COUNTY — A special election will be held May 4 with polls opening at 7 a.m. countywide for voters to consider a mental health millage and a telephone bill surcharge renewal for 911 services.

Voters in the Bendle Community Schools district will also consider a renewal of the current 17.9586 mills levy on all property and the approval of a 2-mill levy for the district’s sinking fund for upgrades to the district’s buildings.

In Gaines Township, voters will decide a 0.89-mil, five-year levy that will generate about $179,000 in the first year to operate a township police department.

Atlas Township is also asking its voters to decide on renewals for fire and police services.

In the ballot proposals, voters will decide on whether to approve the Community Mental Health Millage, an initiative supported by Genesee Health System. If passed, the mental health 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 mental health 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.

Dan Russell, CEO of Genesee Health System, said 100 percent of the millage funds would be allocated to Genesee Health System to meet mental health needs in an appropriate setting and reduce the burden on the county jail to care and house inmates who need mental health treatment.

The Genesee County 911 Central Dispatch Authority is seeking voter support to help keep its emergency services fully funded for the next five years.

Genesee County voters will decide whether to support a surcharge renewal on all landline, wireless and voice over internet protocol service devices to fund 911 emergency call answering and dispatch services within Genesee County, including facilities, equipment, maintenance and operating costs.

If approved by voters, the surcharge renewal will continue to assess a charge of $1.86 per month for a period ending on Dec. 31, 2026 and generate between $7 to $8 million annually. The surcharge itself is a fixed rate that was approved in 2017 by Genesee County voters and accepted by the State of Michigan.

Spring Tremaine, Executive Director of Genesee County 911, said the surcharge is Genesee County 911’s only source of income, helping the department to keep up to date with equipment and covering the salaries of 50 dispatchers and other staff.

“The surcharge funds us 100 percent, including our labor costs, operations, equipment and the nine towers we maintain in the county,” she said. “Our existence is totally dependent on that funding.”

Tremaine said the surcharge’s sunset date will occur on Dec. 31., requiring Genesee County 911 to get the issue on the ballot this May to avoid running out of surcharge funding by the end of the year.

Voters in the Bendle Community Schools District (Burton) will have to decide on continuing the current millage levy of 17.9586 mills on all property and the approval of a 2-mill levy for the district’s sinking fund to be put toward upgrades to the district’s building.

Bendle Superintendent John Krolewski said both ballot issues are essentially the same as the current general operating and sinking fund millages approved by voter in 2011, with some effort in the general millage to recoup funds lost through the Headlee Rollback which took the district’s 18 mills and adjusted it to 17.9586 mills.

While the state says the 18-mill proposal cannot be called a renewal, it is a continuation of the same millage approved by Bendle voters in 2010 – but because of the Headlee Amendment, that amount was reduced to 17.9586 mills ($17.9586 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation).

If approved, the new millage would be for a period of 10 years, 2022 to 2031, inclusive, and would be increased by .5 mill (50 cents on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) to provide funds for operating purposes.

The estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and 18 mills are levied in 2022 is approximately $789,448.

Gaines Township, which recently shut down most of its police department, is asking for 0.89-mills that would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $44.50 annually, or $3.71 monthly. Approval or denial of the proposal will decide whether the township continues the dissolution of its police department or begins to rebuild.

“If the millage passes, we will bring the officers back and a new chief will be sought,” said outgoing Police Chief Mark Schmitzer, who remains on part-time to see the nearly dissolved department through the election. “If it fails, I’ll assist the township in shutting down the department.”

Schmitzer has accepted the position of Corunna Police Chief.

State police from the Corunna Post and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office deputies are currently handling the complaints and emergency calls in Gaines Township.

Voters in Atlas Township will decide a fire protection millage renewal of 1-mill, restoring .02 mills taken from the levy by the Headlee Rollback which reduced that millage to .98 mills ($.98 per $1,000 of taxable value).

The 5-year levy, 2021 through 2025, for fire protection will raise an estimated $368,000 in the first year the millage is levied.

Also on the ballot is a police millage renewal of 2.1 mills ($2.10 per $1,000 of taxable value), reduced to 2.064 mills ($2.06 per $1,000 of taxable value) by the required millage rollbacks, which the township is asking be renewed at and increased up to the original voted 2.1 mills ($2.10 per $1,000 of taxable value) and levied for 5 years, 2021 through 2025 inclusive, for police protection, raising an estimated $772,800 in the first year the millage is levied.