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Thursday September 23, 2021
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Tax Retreats

Concerns from key supporters put millage plans on hold.

by James Leonard

From the September, 2021 issue

In January both the city and the county looked at asking voters to approve new millages. Following up on last year's hugely successful one-mill, twenty-year affordable housing proposal, mayor Christopher Taylor wanted the same amount for climate action. And as the pandemic's toll mounted, a county committee recommended asking for money for public health.

In the end, neither went ahead. The city decided to push its millage back a year and the county nixed its altogether. How come?

Though the city ran a poll which showed the climate millage passing, Taylor says, by then the November election was only a couple of months away. That didn't leave much time to gear up a campaign.

And Ecology Center director Mike Garfield wasn't convinced the time was right. Polls "aren't predictive," Garfield says, recalling the county's 1998 land preservation millage vote, where support dropped 30 percent from the poll to the election.

"From the standpoint of moving urgently, the sooner, the better," Garfield says of the climate-proposal. "From the standpoint of letting as many people as possible vote on it, probably next year."

Since "the expertise and resources and passion of the folks at the Ecology Center will be crucial to the passage of the community climate action millage," Taylor says, council will revisit the idea next year. They'll probably aim for the August primary, when city council races will draw more voters.

County commissioners first discussed a public health millage in the summer of 2020 but decided against it to avoid competing with the city's affordable housing vote. This year the ways and means committee proposed a .3 mill tax to supplement the public health budget for eight years.

But the board nixed the plan in July. "We swapped out a millage for a resolution that's directing staff to come up with a plan to fund it via other sources," says Ann Arbor commissioner Andy LaBarre, "primarily general fund dollars, reserve dollars, and American Rescue Plan dollars."

They, too, were responding to red flags from a key supporter. Ypsilanti Township supervisor Brenda Stumbo, LaBarre says, expressed "her lack of enthusiasm for a millage--their local elected officials had voiced concerns to their commissioners." The county's second biggest municipality had just gone to voters in August with taxes for fire, police, garbage, and 'recreation--and though all passed, there was little appetite for any more so soon.     (end of article)


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