OSCODA – Attendees of the Aug. 26 Oscoda Township Board of Trustees meeting were advised that ballot language has been approved for a potential road millage.

Superintendent Dave Schaeffer noted that, after the prior board meeting on Aug. 12, a special board meeting was held the following day concerning the millage proposal, which will be on the ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

The deadline to file the document with the clerk was on Aug. 13 – hence the reason for the special meeting – with Schaeffer saying that this deadline was met and the township has already received the ballot proofs associated with the upcoming election.

A resolution was adopted at the special meeting to approve the ballot language, which passed in a 4-1 vote of trustees. According to the document, Treasurer Jaimie McGuire, Supervisor Aaron Weed and Trustees Martin Gayeski and William Palmer were in favor of the resolution, while Clerk John Nordeen was opposed. Absent were Trustees Jim Baier and Timothy Cummings.

As noted in the resolution, the township has determined that it is in the best interest of its residents to ensure funding by way of the millage for the continued improvement of road paving, dust control, sidewalk maintenance and other road improvements.

The language approved, verbatim, is as follows:

The Charter Township of Oscoda imposes an increase of up to 1.75 mills ($1.75 per $1,000 of taxable value) in the tax limitation imposed in Article 9 Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution, and levy it for six ( 6) years, being from 2019 through 2024 inclusive for purposes of road maintenance, repairs and improvements, with a 1.75 mill increase raising an estimated $520,250 if approved and levied in 2019.

As recently reported, trustees agreed during their Aug. 12 meeting to put the road millage back on the ballot for voters to decide on, after it failed during the Aug. 6 special election.

There were two millage items presented during the special election, and constituents approved renewing the .90 mills – or 90¢ per $1,000 of taxable value of a person’s property – in support of operation, equipment and maintenance needs for the township fire department.

Voters turned down, though, a 1.75 mills proposal – or $1.75 for every $1,000 of taxable value for property – for road maintenance, repairs, sidewalk improvements and dust control in Oscoda. The millage request garnered 214 votes in favor, with 274 voters against the measure.

Weed said at the time that there needs to be a balance between not having a high millage, but also getting enough done so the township can keep somewhat of a pace with the degradation of the roads.

Schaeffer added that the township has never had a road millage and has never had funding to take care of the roads; so, therefore, a lot of the surfaces were last seal coated in the 1970s and 1980s.

He said the rate at which the roads are degrading are going to make it tough for the township, financially, to stay on top of the repairs.

Schaeffer noted that money has simply been moved from the general fund in order to take care of the roads.

He added that Oscoda doesn’t get a piece of the registration fees, as is the case for cities. So it falls onto the Iosco County Road Commission (ICRC) – and the residents, through special assessment districts (SADs) – to address the issues.

Currently with the SADs, residents pay 35 percent of a project cost, the township pays 35 percent and the ICRC covers the remainder. If the millage were approved, though, the SAD process would be eliminated for residents on such projects.

According to Schaeffer, Oscoda is one of just four communities in the county which doesn’t have a road millage, with the others being the townships of AuSable, Reno and Sherman. However, Oscoda has the most road miles out of any community in the county.

As for his reasoning behind wanting to place the millage before voters again, Palmer said he expects that there will be a greater voter turnout in November.

He said he thinks it’s a poor showing of only 489 residents out of 7,000 to determine whether the township is going to be able to put money into the roads, so he believes it is worth another effort.

Nordeen said he wouldn’t want to put the road millage back on the ballot, as he wasn’t in favor of it in the first place, and he voted against it on principle.

“I would encourage everyone who voted yes on that millage and didn’t see it come to fruition, to contact the road commission and, more importantly, contact the state of Michigan,” he said at the time. “I believe there’s a fundamental problem with the way our funding works for roads in the state. This would be a band-aid – this would be letting a bad system off the hook. It might be the best, quickest way to fix our problem; I recognize that. Idealistically, I don’t agree with it.”

Weed agreed that the system is flawed, but said that if a millage were enacted and then the state comes up with a better system, more funds or whatever the case may be, the millage could always be eliminated.

Palmer moved that the same road millage, in the amount of 1.75 mills, be placed on the ballot for November, which passed in a 5-1 vote of the board. Opposed was Nordeen, and Cummings was not in attendance.