TAWAS CITY – Iosco County voters approved three county-wide millage funding questions, but opted to not approve a millage that would have been a general fund operating millage increase for the county.
The millages were posed to voters during the Aug. 4 election and although there were a multitude of millage questions in the county’s individual townships, there were only four that were county-wide.
The millages that were approved included an increase for Iosco County Emergency Medical Services, an operating millage for the Iosco County Michigan State University Extension office and an operating millage for Iosco County Transit.
The failed millage, a proposal for an increase to the county’s operating tax levy, 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 failed millage asked 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.
If the millage were approved, the millage increase would have been an increase of .5871 mills, to make the county’s total operating millage rate to 4.5 mills for a period of 12 years.
Iosco County Clerk and Co-Administrator Nancy Huebel said that on Aug. 5 the Iosco County Board of Commissioner voted to put the millage on the ballot again for November during a vote.
She said if the millage does not pass there is no definite plan, but there are budget meetings that will be held to come up with a plan on shortened revenue streams that are the result of many things, including increased mandatory service costs and healthcare costs.
“We are going to let voters know that it is really important, we are going to look at cutting non-mandated services in the county,” Huebel said.
She said the county has been operating on 3.3129 mills since the 1970s, but the rate of revenue coming into the county is just not enough to cut it these days with the increased costs, and uncertainty about revenue from the state and local taxpayers do to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know of anyone that has been able to be able to live on something that they made in 1976, and live in todays society on that wage, it’s not going to be easy to do,” she said.
Non-mandated services that could be cut from the county including everything from security in the building, to cutting county appropriations to different organizations. Those could include the animal shelter, fair board, historical society, and others.
Huebel said that voters should remember that the millage is to help pay for the county’s many essential services that people benefit from daily. Those items include public safety, the jail and sheriff department, court systems, vital records, marriage licenses, death certificates, and other items.
“It is really important,” Huebel said.
But the other county-wide millages asked of voters did not have the same fate as the operating millage increase.
The Iosco Transit Corporation renewal millage was approved by county voters with a total of 5,169 voting “yes”, or 69.25 percent of the votes, and 2,295 voting against the millage, or 30.75 percent of the vote.
With the approval of that millage, voters have allowed the levy of .1450 mills for the period of five years, from 2021 to 2025. It is expected to generate $174,761 in the first year for Iosco Transit.
Also approved was the county’s Iosco County Emergency Medical Services millage, with 5,126 voting “yes,” or 71.28 percent of the vote, and 2,066 voting against the measure with “no” votes, or 28.72 percent of the votes.
With the millage approval the agency’s operating millage will be increased to .6 mills from .4431 mills. The operating millage increase will only be for two years, from 2021-22, and will generate an estimated $708,000 in the first year.
The final county-wide millage that was approved was the losco County MSU Extension 14-H millage, which was put forth to help with the operation of those aforementioned programs for the public.
Voting to approve the millage were 4,871 “yes” votes, or 65.69 percent, and 2,544 “no” votes, or 34.31 percent.
The millage will help fund Iosco County’s Michigan State University extension office and will asked voters to approve .12 mill to be renewed for a rate of five years, from 2021 to 2025, and to generate an estimated $141,148 for the first year of the millage.
Huebel said there were not many problems reported on in the county for this primary, although there was increased absentee voting for this election with the 2018 election law change allowing for more absentee ballots to be cast by anyone. She said that the humidity actually had an impact on some paper ballots.
“The humidity played a part in some paper ballots getting stuck in the machines a little bit,” Huebel said. “But that could be anyone’s ballot (meaning in-person voting or an absentee ballot). The humidity might swell the paper of the ballot and it could get stuck in the machine.”
Huebel said in Oscoda Township’s four voting precincts, there is a new absentee ballot counting board, the only one of the county’s governments, and that that new board took longer than most years to count absentee ballots during this election.