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  • Robert Lathers

Portland Area Voters asked to dig a little deeper for County Road Millage

On Tuesday when Portland area voters go to the polls to vote in the Primary election they will be asked to approve a new six-year millage proposal to increase funding to the Ionia County Road Commission. If county-wide voters approve the request it will generate $1,690,496 in the first calendar year and then similar amounts for each of the next five years. Everyone who pays property taxes in the county will experience an additional $1 tax for every $1,000 (1 Mill) of the taxable value of their property. Simply put, if a homeowner has a taxable value of 70,000 it will increase their property taxes by $70 a year for the next six years.

According to a recent flyer sent to county residents by the Ionia County Road Commission, the new millage will fund 30.8 miles of resurfacing in 2019 and 26.8 miles of resurfacing in 2020. All the projects slated for resurfacing have already been selected according to Dorothy Pohl, Managing Director of the Ionia County Road Commission. Sunfield Highway, south of Grand River Ave, is the nearest road to Portland on the list. Fortunately, according to Pohl the County Roads in and around Portland are in pretty good shape compared to other county roads. There is no description available at the time of this article of what roads will be selected for improvement in 2021,2022,2023 or 2024 if the millage passes on Tuesday.

It is unclear, from the information recently mailed to voters, what roads if any, will be resurfaced if the millage request fails on Tuesday. It is also unstated, how much of the Ionia County Road Commission’s annual budget of $13 Million is currently designated for Road improvements or resurfacing.

The Ionia County Board of Commissioners do not provide any funds from county tax dollars to the Ionia County Road Commission Authority, since it is independently funded wholly by the State of Michigan. However, according to Ionia County Administrator, Stephanie Fox, the Ionia County Board of Commissioners did contribute to the construction of the Lyons-Muir Bridge in 2017. This was considered an exception to the practice of not funding county or city roads out of county general funds.

Language on The Road Improvement Ballot Proposal that voters will decide on next week indicates that State Law requires that “a portion of the new millage ‘may’ be captured by the downtown development authorities for the cities of Belding, Ionia, and Portland, the Village of Lake Odessa, and the Village of Lyons and the City of Iona’s two tax increment finance authorities”. This amount will be “approximately $29,888 for 2019”. According to Pohl that “approximately $29,888” amount will be divided amongst the entities. Pohl has indicated however that if the millage does pass, additional funds will be provided to the individual entities based on an established formula. This fact is not stated on the ballot proposal. According to Pohl, the city of Portland could receive up to $97,000 in additional funds if the millage passes.

Kristina Kinde, Portland City Treasurer and Finance Officer, reports that the City of Portland does not receive any funds currently from the Ionia County Road Commission, but the City does receive $405,000 directly from the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), annually, for its streets and roads. The MTF is responsible to distribute state gas taxes and license plate fees to the Michigan Department of Transportation, County Road Commissions and all cities/villages in the State. In addition to those funds, Portland already generates $80,000 from its own 1 Mill assessment to property owners for city streets. In addition, the entire $900,000 collected through the city’s 1% resident income tax is designated solely for Portland Street maintenance and improvements. A total local amount of $1,385,000.

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