MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board heard a presentation during its Tuesday budget work session on the recreational funding millage proposal that will appear on the ballot during the Nov. 3 election.
Township staff is working on the best way to present the facts about the proposed .05-mill two-year millage to the public.
If approved by voters, it will provide “current-level” operation and maintenance funding for Lions Field, Schwemwood Park and the township’s shared-use pathways, according to the presentation. The funding, if approved, would be “inclusive for the purpose of continuing to provide public recreational activities, opportunities and staffing levels for facilities for township residents,” the millage language states.
The cost to taxpayers would be 50 cents for each $1,000 of taxable property value in 2020 and 2021. Under the millage, property with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay $50 each year, officials said.
If approved, the estimated millage levied would be $138,036 in the first year.
By consensus, the board approved a proposed flyer, which will be printed on the back of township utility bills this month.
The language on the flyer will be reviewed by Township Attorney Roger Zappa to ensure that only factual information is being presented, which is required under Michigan law.
The information will also appear on the township website as well as being presented during at least one future board meeting, Township Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy said.
The millage request is the result of the increased demand for recreational opportunities in the township coupled with an increased demand for park/facilities maintenance and upkeep, he said.
“There has definitely been an increase, especially the last — I would say — four years. We have requirements to maintain the park per our agreements with Marquette Little League and Marquette Area Public Schools, things of that nature,” McCarthy said. “And also an increase in our nonmotorized transportation network, which is a very popular thing in the community and something that the community wants to expand upon, at least by survey. So maintenance of those assets (is) very important and with that comes a cost.”
The increase in cost has come with a decrease in revenue from several fronts, he noted, including nearly a decade of Michigan Tax Tribunal decisions that have significantly reduced property tax revenues in the township.
“Obviously big box retail (tax) reductions have played a huge role in our ability to fund or assist with funding in larger projects,” McCarthy said. “And we will probably take a couple of steps back from those types of projects in the near future because this proposal is just to maintain what we have right now. And the desire of staff, and I am sure the pride of the township board and the committees and all the folks that work on these projects, the desire to maintain the assets that we have.”
The millage, if passed, would include “conservative budgeting for labor costs, materials, equipment and administrative services required to maintain current service levels for the next two years,” McCarthy said.
Township Supervisor Lyn Durant said as a voter, she has not made up her mind about the millage.
“We are asking for money, there is nothing concrete that they can say this will affect my yard … or the trail they ride on or drive on,” Durant said. “It’s not personal to them. They are not going to take ownership and say, yes this important to me. If there is a way we can say, even about grant money…
“This is where I am not…I don’t have that box circled on my ballot yet because as a taxpayer, what am I getting out of this? And that’s why I asked (Township Manager) Jon (Kangas), ‘Is this just for payroll? Do we need to do something internally with the general fund’s accounts?’”
Trustee David Wiegand, who also serves on the township recreation committee, said paying for costs associated with township employees is not the goal of the millage.
“I don’t think you can say it’s just for payroll,” Wiegand said. “The whole reason it’s set out that way is so that you can continue the maintenance (as) it currently is, because our budget is going down.”
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