Road Commission Takes Step on Possible Tax

On Friday, Sept. 23, the Washtenaw County road commission submitted a plan to the county clerk’s office for road improvements it would like to undertake countywide. It’s a step required before seeking funds from a millage that would need approval from the county board of commissioners, but that would not require voter approval. [.pdf of proposed projects] The county board of commissioners could take up the issue at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Representatives from the road commission had been expected to present the plan at the county board’s Sept. 21 meeting. However, an email sent on Sept. 20 to the board from the county’s corporation counsel, Curtis Hedger, laid out his understanding of the process that the road commission would need to follow.

From Hedger’s email: ”…the Act does not specifically state that the Road Commission must send its preliminary survey and tax request to the County Clerk, but given the plain language in the statute that the County Clerk must present the survey and tax request from the Road Commission to the Board of Commissioners at their October meeting, I believe it is fairly and strongly implied that the Road Commission must send its preliminary survey and tax determination request to the County Clerk, who then has the authority to present it to the Board of Commissioners.” [.pdf of Hedger's email]

Hedger’s email stated that the board has statutory authority to take one of the following actions: (1) completely approve the road commission’s preliminary survey and tax determination request; (2) completely reject the preliminary survey and tax determination request; or (3) approve some of the request and deny some of the request.

This issue was discussed by county commissioners at their Sept. 8 working session, and again at a working session on Sept. 22. Road commissioners say the millage is needed because the county is faced with diminished funding from the state, increased costs for labor and materials, and a growing number of deteriorating roads.

The proposal is expected to include a request for the county board to levy a 0.6 mill tax, which would raise about $7 million for more than three dozen proposed road projects. Road commissioners believe the millage could be levied under Public Act 283 of 1909. Because that act pre-dates the state’s Headlee Amendment, it could be levied by the board and would not require voter approval. The county already levies two other taxes in this category, for support of veterans services and economic development. Both of those taxes were given final approval at the board’s Sept. 21 meeting.