Lansing lines up millage restoration for August ballot

Proposal maintains tax revenues for cops, firefighters, roads

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WEDNESDAY, May 5 — A proposal headed to the August ballot aims to maintain tax revenues for the Lansing Police and Fire departments and fund local road and sidewalk maintenance.

And if it doesn’t pass, the city could lose out on about $1.4 million annually, officials said.

The Lansing City Council this week approved language for an essential services millage restoration proposal for the primary election ballot on Aug. 3. If it passes, the city will be authorized to maintain a 20-mill levy ($20 per $1,000 in taxable property value) that would otherwise roll back to about 19 mills at the end of the year, in accordance with the state constitution’s Headlee Amendment. The proposal would maintain the current rate at 19.44 mills.

The cash would still be directed at funding essential services including police and fire protection and local road and sidewalk maintenance in the city of Lansing, according to the proposal. City officials said the revenues help fuel day-to-day operations and ensure employees are paid. 

Finance officials noted the funds have already been accounted for in Mayor Andy Schor’s latest budget proposal. Its passage would prevent layoffs and keep road maintenance on schedule.

The state’s Headlee Amendment requires maximum annual property tax millage rates to be reduced so that the city’s total taxable property yields the same gross revenue, adjusted for inflation. Because of this, municipalities often turn to voters to override that statutory reduction and ensure the millage remains flat regardless of changes in local taxable property values.

Lansing voters have approved those overrides twice since 2011, each for five years. The latest restoration proposal en route to voters would cap the rate at 20 mills through the end of 2026.

Councilman Brandon Betz — a vocal advocate for divesting from the Police Department — tried (and failed) to water down the renewal with a substitute proposal that would have redirected a $1.2 million portion of the annual millage rate away from the Police Department to ramp up funding for the Fire Department and local sidewalks and road maintenance. Only Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Kathie Dunbar joined Betz in supporting the measure, which failed 2-6.

Dunbar also proposed another iteration that would’ve redirected about $600,000 away from the Police Department. That failed 3-5, with only Betz and Councilman Brian Jackson supporting it.

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