Increase to Tax for Veterans Services Planned

Initial approval to levy an 0.0333 mill tax for indigent veterans services was given by Washtenaw County commissioners at their Oct. 2, 2013 meeting. A final vote is expected on Oct. 16.

The current rate, approved by the board last year and levied in December 2012, is 0.0286 mills – or 1/35th of a mill. It generated $390,340 this year. The new proposed rate of 1/30th of a mill would be levied in December 2013 to fund services in 2014. It’s expected to generate $463,160 in revenues.

According to a staff memo, the additional revenue is needed to address rising claims, the anticipated release of current active duty soldiers, the increased cost of living reflected in claims, continued increases to demand, and an increased workload due to the Washtenaw County Veterans Treatment Court.

The county is authorized to collect up to 1/10th of a mill without seeking voter approval. That’s because the state legislation that enables the county to levy this type of tax – the Veterans Relief Fund Act – predates the state’s Headlee Amendment. The county first began levying this millage in 2008. Services are administered through the county’s department of veterans affairs.

The county held a public hearing on this tax proposal at its Sept. 18 meeting, but no one spoke.

Increasing this tax was one of several revenue options that the county commissioners discussed at their Aug. 8, 2013 working session, as part of a broader strategy to address a nearly $4 million projected budget deficit in 2014. See Chronicle coverage: “County Board Eyes Slate of Revenue Options.”

During deliberations on Oct. 2, commissioner Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) expressed concern about the number of hours that the department of veterans affairs was open – it operates on a four-day work week, with extended hours on those days. He indicated interest in looking at whether more funding should be provided to keep the office open five days, while keeping the extended hours. Yousef Rabhi (D-District 8) said he’d be willing to increase the millage even more, if additional funding is needed.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main. A more detailed report will follow: [link]