Veterans, Act 88 Millages Get Initial OK

Two taxes – for indigent veterans services and economic/agricultural development – were given initial approval at the Sept. 5, 2012 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. Because the Michigan statutes that authorize these millages predate the state’s Headlee Amendment, they can be approved by the board without a voter referendum. Final votes and public hearings on these millages are set for the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.

The tax to support services for indigent veterans was increased to 0.0286 mills, to be levied in December 2012. The vote was unanimous. The millage is expected to raise $390,340 in revenues for use during 2013. The current 0.025 mills brought in $344,486 in 2012.

According to a staff memo, the increase is needed because of rising claims and services from veterans due to a struggling economy, an anticipated increase in the number of returning soldiers, and a drop in property values. The county first began levying this millage in 2008. Services are administered through the county’s department of veterans affairs.

The millage for economic development and agriculture is authorized under the state’s Act 88. It was given initial approval by commissioners on a 7-to-3 vote, with dissent from Alicia Ping, Wes Prater, and Dan Smith. Ronnie Peterson was absent. It will cost homeowners $5 for each $100,000 of their home’s taxable value.

The anticipated $683,095 in millage proceeds will be allocated to the following local entities in 2013, and are generally the same amounts that the groups received this year: Ann Arbor SPARK ($200,000), SPARK East ($50,000), the county’s dept. of community & economic development ($140, 331), Eastern Leaders Group ($100,000), promotion of heritage tourism ($65,264), Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP – $15,000), Washtenaw 4-H ($82,500), Washtenaw County 4-H Youth Show ($15,000), and MSU Extension, to support economic development in the local food system ($15,000).

During deliberations, board chair Conan Smith – who represents District 10 in Ann Arbor – floated the possibility of increasing the Act 88 levy in the future. He also suggested giving the office of community and economic development (OCED) the authority for distributing the millage funds. It’s expected that Smith will bring forward a formal proposal for the board to consider, possibly at its Sept. 19 meeting.

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