building

The Iosco County Courthouse building in Tawas City.

TAWAS CITY – Iosco County Clerk/Co-Administrator Nancy Huebel outlined a variety of CAREs grant funding that was awarded to the county and also pitched the need for voters to approve a county operating millage increase.

Huebel discussed the matters during the Oct. 7 Iosco County Board of Commissioners Committee of the Whole meeting held via video conferencing.

The CARES Act, which was written into law by the U.S. Government at the start of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, helped provide emergency funding, and in some cases hazard pay, for front line workers during the pandemic. 

Huebel told officials that earlier in the year she had applied for hazard pay through the act for Iosco County Central Dispatch employees, employees with the Iosco County Sheriff’s Office, county EMS workers and animal control. Each employee got $1,000 in hazard pay from the act.

“We re received $69,000 paid out, but $65,000 because some employees that had left employment weren’t eligible and we will be sending $4,000 back to the Department of Treasury,” Huebel said.

Of that payment, Huebul said  $10,000 was paid to 911 employees; $1000 was paid to the animal control employee; $31,000 was paid to the EMS employees; $19,000 was paid to the Jail employees and $4,000 paid to Sheriff Department employees.

 Huebel applied for payroll reimbursement in July as well to the amount of $547,855 but did not receive that full amount. She said the county did receive $279,405 in payroll reimbursement. 

Of that amount $139,702 went to the general fund; $134,224.23 went to the EMS Fund and $5,478.54 went to the Animal Control fund,” Huebel said.

Huebel said that was good, and it would go toward helping making ends meet in the county. She said, however, that she hoped voters would approve the county operating millage increase that is on the Nov. 3 ballot. This is the second attempt by the county to get the millage approved. The first was during the Aug. 4 primary election where the operating millage was failed to be approved by county voters. The millage question was only one of two in the entire state that did not get approved by voters.

The failed millage lost with 3,816 “no” votes, or 52.43 percent of the vote, against 3,462 “yes” votes, or  a difference of 354 votes, or 47.57 percent of the vote.

The millage – which is the exact same wording on the Nov. 3 ballot as it was on the Aug. 4 ballot –  asks voters to approve a millage increase to take the county millage rate back to 4.5 mills, which was the 1976 allocated rate. The millage was “rolled back” over the years from that rate due to the Headlee Rollback Amendment, which dictates that a millage cannot increase more than the rate of inflation. 

Huebel gave an example of a home that has a taxable value of $50,000. She said the approved millage increase would make your tax bill for the county increase by nearly $30 ($50,000 divided by $1,000 x .5871 = $29.36).

She said the increase would provide nearly $700,000 in additional funding for the county’s general fund, funding that is sorely needed to keep services going.

“Property taxes pay for essential county services, such as public safety, the court system, property deeds and maintaining vital records (birth, death and marriage licenses, etc.) to name a few,” Huebel said. “Property taxes also help pay for many “non-mandated” services, such as the Animal Shelter, Michigan State University Cooperative Extension, County Airport services, Emergency Management Coordinator, Fair Board, STING, Historical Society and Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment to name a few.”

Commissioner John Moehring asked if the millage were approved, when the funding would be collected from taxpayers. Treasurer Cathy Anderson said that the millage funding would be collected in July during the summer tax payment.

Commissioner Charles Finley said that residents should not think of the new millage amount as an increase, but “getting back to level ground again” because the millage rate was reduced because of law. 

Commissioner Terry Dutcher agreed, and noticed the millage rate was rolled back in the 1970s with the introduction of the Headlee Amendment.

“So for more than 40 years the county was managing the tax revenue of the taxpayers quite well obviously but after so much time has passed inflation has caught up to that,” Dutcher said. “There is not really much less that they can do without major cuts.”

Chairman Robert Huebel urged the other members of the board to talk to people in their districts to urge them to vote for the operating millage Nov. 3.

“I would encourage all the commissioners, I have done it myself, to just raise your voice a little bit and explain the need for the millage,” he said, adding that many departments in the county have been working to help balance the budget.

“We are still working on budget issues and trying to get it hammered out,” he said. “A lot of the funding would really help us out.”