08-01-2018 Local ballot issues to be determined on Primary Election, Tues., August 7

Local ballot issues to be determined on Primary Election, Tues., August 7

By Annette Christie Coloma Township Public Safety Millage Increase Coloma Township officials will be asking voters for their support of 1.5 mills for the period of four years (2018-2019-2020-2021) to be used exclusively for providing police and fire services. The township currently has one millage of 4.75 for public safety that expires in 2020. The Coloma Township Police Department was founded in 1969 and was initially a part-time department until the mid-70s when it became a full service 24/7 department. The cost of providing the police services was funded through the general fund until 1979 when due to public outcry, a special police millage was approved. The first police millage passed by a nearly two-to-one margin. In 1992, a millage increase was necessary. Initially, it was not approved by voters. Due to public response, it was placed on a second ballot and then passed. The separate police and fire millages have joined into a public safety millage with the police department receiving 83% of it. The two departments have operated through the millage funds coupled with general fund money. The public has supported the public safety millage at the polls every four years since 1992. Other factors have affected the incoming funds of both the general fund and the millage funds; the general funds due to decreased revenue sharing and the millage funds because of decreased taxable values which the millage rate is based on. While the township and the police department has made concessions such as consolidating positions and pay freezes for the police department they will not be able to sustain. Based on budget projections, the projected revenues will not meet the projected expenses by the 2018/2019 budget year under the current funding model in place. Police Chief Jason Roe recommended a proposed millage increase that would make both the police and the fire departments sustainable and would provide a long-term solution. Roe states, “The data shows that due to several factors, most of which are out of township and police department control, it will be necessary to seek additional millage funding to sustain the current Coloma Township Police Department professional service levels.” Roe said that the additional millage funding will allow the police and fire departments to continue to at least the next 30 years.

Watervliet City Police and Fire Millage Renewals Residents in the City of Watervliet will be asked to vote on two renewal millage proposals, one to support the city’s police department and the other to support the fire department. The police department millage is for 3 mills while the fire department millage is for 2 mills. If approved, they will be collected for three years. The police millage would raise approximately $81,060 the first year and the fire millage would raise approximately $54,406 the first year.

North Berrien Historical Society seeks Millage Renewal Voters in Bainbridge, Hagar, Coloma and Watervliet townships and Coloma and Watervliet cities will be asked to renew a millage to support the North Berrien Historical Society. The millage is for .25 mill for another four years. Voters first approved a millage in 2006.

Keeler Township renewals for police, fire, and roads Keeler Township residents will be asked to renew the millages for police services, fire services, and road improvements. The fire services millage is 1 mill for four years. The police services millage is for .75 mill for four years. The township contracts with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office for those services. The road millage is for 1 mill for three years. Hartford City Voters in the City of Hartford will be asked to increase the senior services millage for an additional .25 mill for four years.

Van Buren County Road Commission Millage Increase The Van Buren County Road Commission will be asking voters to approve a 3 mill county-wide road millage for the next 12 years. It is expected to raise $8.2 million for primary road improvements. The Van Buren County Road Commission maintains 1,330 miles of road. The primary roads consist of approximately 350 miles. There are currently 235 miles of primary roads in “poor” condition. The goal for this millage will be to reach an overall average rating on the primary road system. The plan would be to touch the entire primary system with some form of treatment to prevent further decline and hold as many miles in “good” condition as possible over the life of the millage. Although the Michigan Legislature passed a new road funding package in 2015, only a portion of that is coming back to the counties. If the millage is passed, every cent of what is raised will go right back into the roads in Van Buren County. It will not go for any pieces of equipment, etc.; it will all go directly back into the roads. The new state road funding package gradually increases the funding provided to the road commissions through the Michigan Transportation Fund. The Michigan Transportation Fund is the Road Commission’s main source of funding for maintenance. The current 1-mill levy in Van Buren County has been in place since 1978. Also, most of the townships have their own road millage in place. The Road Commission uses the funding from this levy to leverage federal and state funds to do larger, more expensive road and bridge projects. Without the current 1-mill levy, the county would not have these necessary local funds.

Van Buren County Millage Renewals Van Buren County voters will be asked to renew the public safety millage for drug enforcement and sheriff road patrols at .5332 mill for another four-year term; an ambulance services renewal at .9370 mill for another four-year term; and a 911 surcharge on landlines, cell phones, and similar devices at 75 cents per month for 2019-2023.