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Published: Wednesday, 8/29/2007

Issues scarce for November vote in SE Michigan

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in southeast Michigan will face a small number of different questions on the Nov. 6 ballot, including the proposed increase of a levy that pays for bus service in the city of Monroe and Frenchtown Charter Township.

Lake Erie Transit, which operates bus services for municipalities throughout the county, will ask voters in Monroe and Frenchtown to increase to 0.75 mills the amount of tax it levies to provide service to 393,000 riders a year.

If approved, the five-year, 0.75-mill levy would generate up to $730,375 in the city of Monroe, and $912,260 in Frenchtown Township, Monroe County officials said.

The current 0.5-mill levy in Lake Erie Transit's major service area is not enough to keep up with growing expenses, said Mark Jagodzinski, Lake Erie Transit's general manager.

"We're at the max of the current levy," Mr. Jagodzinski said. "Fuel, health insurance, labor to some extent, maintenance, parts - they're all continuing to go up."

As it did when it last passed the 0.5-mill levy in 2003, Lake Erie Transit would not collect everything it could, should the increased levy pass, Mr. Jagodzinski said. "We'll only [collect] what we need. I think we've proven that we're fiscally responsible in doing that."

Voters in Monroe and Frenchtown increased the bus levy from 0.35 mills to 0.5 mills in 2003, although only 0.35 mills was collected that year.

A mill is equal to $1 of tax per $1,000 of state equalized value in Michigan. If passed, the millage increase will apply only to taxpayers in the city of Monroe and Frenchtown Charter Township.

Elsewhere in Monroe County, only voters in the city of Luna Pier and Whiteford and Ash townships will face ballot questions.

In Luna Pier, city officials are asking taxpayers to approve a four-year, 0.5-mill levy to repair and resurface local roads.

The city's last dedicated road millage expired in 2000, city Clerk Michelle Cureton said.

If approved, the levy would generate about $50,000 annually and first be levied in 2008.

Luna Pier voters also will be asked to renew - and slightly increase - the four-year, 1-mill levy used to repair and maintain the city's system of dikes.

The previous 1-mill levy has been rolled back by the state's Headlee Amendment to 0.9859 mills, Ms. Cureton said.

If the 1-mill levy is approved, it will generate about $100,000 in 2008, she said.

In Whiteford Township, voters will be asked to either affirm or overturn an October, 2006, decision by the township board to rezone about 6 acres in the Gateway Industrial Park from Highway Business District to Hazardous Materials District.

The balloting is necessary because of a successful petition from a nearby rival fireworks retailer to challenge the rezoning, which would have allowed a new fireworks retailer to open on the parcel.

The land in question is on the southeast corner of Sterns Road and Schnipke Drive.

Officials in Ash Township will ask voters to approve an additional 0.7-mill, 15-year levy to build and equip a new fire station in the growing downriver suburb of Detroit.

If approved, the millage would generate about $220,000 in its first year.

There are no issues on the ballot in either Lenawee or Hillsdale counties for the Nov. 6 election, according to their respective county clerks.

The deadline for city candidates, who will be on the November ballot, isn't until Sept. 7 in most of the home-rule municipalities.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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