Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Election Roundup: Win Some, Lose Some, Michigan Voters Generally Approve of School Millage Requests

If yesterday's elections prove anything, it's that Michigan voters are not adverse to pushing the debt down the road to fund school operations and building improvements. It seems that many of these bond votes extended the expiration dates on existing millages. Can that be called a tax increase? Sort of, but when you are talking about bonds that expire well into the future, as one person in Grass Lake put it, "It won't change for 10 years or so, and some of us might not even be living here then". So be it. Too bad we can't do more of that at the state level.

Interesting to note that reports of organized anti-tax opposition to millages and other issues were prevalent in some of the reporting; Chippewa Valley and Mason school votes being two prominent ones. Both passed. Troy's public safety issue did not.

Here is a roundup of some of the votes from yesterday, starting off with the public safety tax proposals. School bond issues did well across the state, other services were a mixed bag. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive; it's just the stories that have popped up so far this morning in local reporting:

  • Troy teabaggers defeated a public safety and operating expenses millage, cheering as the city will now lay off 47 police officers and close the library, nature center and community center. "The city needs to rein in its spending" - and now they will by lowering the quality of life there. Does this mean that Troy will rely on the county mounties and state cops more often, as Pontiac did? And, is that fair to other taxpayers if and when that happens? That is a question that needs to be answered down the road. Cities that refuse to provide for their own safety shouldn't tap state taxpayer dollars to make up the difference.

  • From the same DNews story, Bloomfield Township decided it likes having a police and fire department, and passed their $4.4 millage request 53%-47%. Officials sold it as not really a tax increase, as property values are expected to decline in the coming years. Having lost in the public arena, teabaggers there are now threatening recalls of elected officials.

  • Mason voters approved a school millage renewal by a 2-1 margin. This millage hits business and not primary residences - and that brought out the teabag contingent to oppose the effort, claiming that this election would send an "anti-tax" message. Voters did the opposite, by a huge margin. Epic teabag fail.

  • Chippewa Valley in Macomb County passed a $89 million school bond. Like many other communities, this didn't involve an instant tax increase per say, but extended the life of the current bond by five years. The plan still met with the opposition of local and "vocal" anti-tax groups, but was approved by a roughly 60-40 majority.

  • In West Michigan, voters approved bond issues in the Kelloggsville, Fruitport, and Belding school districts, Montabella voters approved an athletic facility bond request.

  • Escanaba voters passed a $21.6 million bond request. Other UP votes: Luce County turned down a maintenance and operations millage, but passed a $90,000 request for abused and neglected children's services. Tahquamenon Schools passed a school building upgrade bond. Bergland Township passed a sewer repair bond. Bohemia Township passed both a general operations and a road maintenance bond. Greenland Township turned down a general operations bond, and the effort to save ambulance services in Ontanagon ended in a tie. Not sure what they do next.

  • Livingston County voters approved nearly $90 million for schools, pushing debt retirement well into the future. Hartland Consolidated voters approved a $28 million bond issue, and Pinckney approved a $59 million bond issue.

  • Grass Lake voters approved a $1.75 million bond, this coming courtesy of the Recovery Act. The millage rate will not increase, but had been scheduled to drop in the future. This maintains current funding.

  • Ridgeway Township voters approved a millage renewal and increase for road repairs, squeaking by on a 29-26 vote. It's expected to raise nearly $60 thousand in the first year.

    Some of the losers from yesterday:

  • Berkley Schools lost big time, a $168 million request turned down by a 70-30 margin. Voters generally agree that the schools need work, but thought this plan too excessive.

  • Blissfield turned down a $12 million bond request.

  • Atherton schools may try again later this year after their millage request went down to defeat. Parent groups are pointing to low voter turn-out.

  • Holton Township voters turned down a request to pay for road repairs. The Muskegon County Road Commission has been pulverizing roads to turn them back to gravel, raising health concerns as the crushed asphalt is releasing a black dust that covers homes and is suspected to be causing respiratory problems. Look for this to become a widespread issue if more counties start doing the same.

    This is just the start of requests at the local level, as many communities are planning May votes for school and public safety issues. The GR Press has an extensive list of what is to come in the West Michigan area alone, and already stories about May votes are starting to emerge in other areas of the state, Albion and Ishpeming to name a couple.

    In other words, if you value your schools and quality of life, better get ready for Round Two!