By Paul Rozycki
May elections in Michigan are typically low profile affairs, with few voters taking the time to cast a ballot. Flint’s election was no different.
In Tuesday’s election, with little visibility, few items on the ballot, and little controversy, only 6.3 percent of the potential voters turned out in Flint, as they gave approval to two millage renewals, a 911 surcharge renewal, and one proposed new millage for the Genesee Health System.
The turnout for all of Genesee County was 12.6 percent.
Flint voters approve renewal of fire and police millage
By a margin of 82 to 18 percent (3875 to 851 votes) voters gave a thumbs up to renewing Flint’s current fire and police millage. The 6 mill tax is expected to raise about $4.7 million during the first year, and is to be used for supporting police and fire protection.
A city ordinance requires that at least 55 percent of the city budget must be dedicated to police and fire protection, to guarantee that the millage funds don’t simply replace current funds. The renewal will not increase the taxes for homeowners.
A 6 mill tax is $6 per $1000 of taxable value on property and would cost the owner of a home with a taxable value of $35,000 about $210 a year. The millage was first approved in 2012 and was renewed in 2016 with over 75 percent of the vote.
MTA transportation renewal millage wins approval
Voters also approved a renewal of the millage for the Flint Mass Transportation Authority (MTA) by a margin of 82 to 18 percent (3870 to 865 votes). It continues the current .60 mill levy (.60 per $1,000) until June 30, 2027. The renewal is expected to raise about $472,000 annually.
A home with a taxable value of $50,000 would pay about $30 per year. The City of Flint ended its support for the MTA in the early 1990s, when the voters approved a separate millage for the system. The MTA also serves the county outside of Flint, and is supported by a separate millage for those services.
Genesee County 911 surcharge renewal wins
Though the vote was closer than the ballot renewals, Genesee County voters did approve a surcharge renewal on all landline, wireless and voiceover internet services within the county, by a substantial margin of 61 to 39 percent (26,428 to 16, 867 votes).
The surcharge of $1.86 per month for those using the services would be used for continuing and maintaining 911 services within Genesee County. The current surcharge was scheduled to end on Dec. 31 2021 and the renewal continues until Dec. 31, 2026. Voters approved the current surcharge in 2017.
New millage for Genesee Health System mental health is approved
Genesee County voters also gave their approval for a new .94 millage to be used to improve the ability of the Genesee Health System to aid those with mental health issues. The margin of victory was 55 to 45 percent (23,636 to 19, 507 votes). The new service is designed to aid law enforcement, the courts, and corrections officials, in the areas of mental health and crisis intervention.
The mental health services would also aid in suicide prevention, and crisis resolution as well as health and wellness for vulnerable populations. It is expected that the millage would raise about $9.5 million in the first year.
About $300,000 of that would be shared with other municipalities in the county. The millage will raise $9.5 million in the first year and $90 million over the next decade. The owner of $50,000 of taxable property would pay about $47 per year for the new tax. The millage would run until 2030.
Around the county
Several other communities in Genesee County also had millages, assessments, or other proposals on the ballot. Briefly, the results were as follows.
Bendle schools millage and sinking fund both approved
Bendle voters approved both a sinking fund and an operations millage for the district by margin of 62 percent to 38 percent (203 to 125 votes) for the operating millage, and a 55 percent to 45 percent (180 to 148 votes) for the sinking fund. The millage was a renewal of an 18 mill levy, and the sinking fund was an increase of 2 mills.
Gaines Township police millage rejected, mosquito assessment approved
Voters in Gaines Township had the option of approving a .89 mill police millage. The vote was a strong rejection of the millage by a 33 to 67 percent margin (594 to 1223 votes). Officials in the township said that without the millage, the police department would have to shut down.
The mosquito control assessment was approved by a 52 to 48 percent margin (950 to 862 votes). The assessment was for up to $35 per residential dwelling, commercial or industrial building, per year.
Atlas Township fire and police millage renewals approved
Both of the millages passed. The fire millage passed by a 76 to 24 percent margin (985 to 306 votes) and the police millage passed by a 73 to 27 percent margin (946 to 346 votes) The millages were for a renewal of a 1.0 fire protection millage, and a 2.1 police millage.
The future of May elections?
Michigan normally has three election days per year—the May election which is often devoted to millages and bond issues, the August primary, and the November general election. Because there are usually few issues on the May ballot, those elections typically have a very low voter turnout, and often require local governments to spend money to run an election for a single issue or two.
Recently the Michigan House has proposed combining both the May and August elections into a single election in June. The proposed bills still need to pass the state Senate, and be signed by the governor, and there is no guarantee that either will happen. But, if it does, the May election could become history.
EVM political commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org