CHICAGO — Voters across Michigan approved a series of school bond proposals in Tuesday’s election, while splitting on controversial tax increases proposed by two struggling cities in Oakland County.
Voters in Troy overwhelmingly rejected a five-year property tax increase that officials said was needed to avoid closing city buildings and laying off workers. But Bloomfield Township won voter approval of a 10-year property tax hike that officials said would help offset falling property tax revenue.
The election comes as many Michigan municipalities continue to struggle, and at least two of the state’s larger cities, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, are expected to ask voters later this year to approve income-tax increases to shore up weak budgets.
Officials in Troy said they would now move to close the library, museum, community center, and other buildings in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. They also said they would likely lay off nearly a third of the police force.
The tax increase was projected to raise just under $38 million over the next five years. The city faces a $22 million shortfall over roughly the same period, mainly from a drop in property tax revenues stemming from declining property values.
Troy Mayor Louise Schilling was quoted in local reports as saying she would ask the City Council Monday to begin making “drastic” cuts. “We must have a balanced budget and the voters have decided this is the kind of city they wish to have,” she said.
Voters in Oakland’s Berkeley School District rejected a controversial $168 million bond issue. The bond proposal was the largest to appear on any ballot Tuesday, and 69% of voters rejected it.
But voters in Bloomfield Township — also located in Oakland County — voted in favor of a property tax hike that officials said would help offset a $3.1 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins April 1 and a $6 million deficit in fiscal 2012. The 10-year tax increase is expected to raise $4.4 million next year and slightly less in future years as property values decline, officials said.
“These voters have made certain that our community will remain safe, secure, and a great place to call home,” township Supervisor Dave Payne said in a statement.
Voters across the state approved a series of smaller bond proposals to finance school capital projects, according to local secretary of state results posted yesterday. Voters in the Chippewa Valley School District approved an $89 million bond proposal and voters in Cass County passed a $16 million bond proposal for the Cassopolis Public School District.
Belding Area Schools won approval for a $39 million bond proposal. Voters in the Pinckney School District narrowly approved a $59 million bond issue, and voters in Hartland Consolidated Schools approved a $28 million bond proposal.
Meanwhile, at least two more cities are expected to ask for tax increases in upcoming elections this year. Grand Rapids city commissioners agreed last week to put an income tax increase on the May ballot. The proposal would push the income tax rate for residents to 1.5% from 1.3% for five years and to 0.75% from 0.65% for nonresidents who work in the city. It’s expected to raise $7 million annually. Grand Rapids is facing a $27 million deficit in its current budget.
The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign urging voters to reject the proposal, and observers say the issue could be one of the most controversial in decades.
Meanwhile, the Ann Arbor City Council is in the middle of tough budget hearings to help close a $5.2 million general-fund shortfall in 2011. City officials have asked the council to consider putting an income-tax increase before the voters in one of the three upcoming elections this year.
Officials said the increase would raise between $5 million and $11 million annually depending on the size of the increase. Public safety, which makes up more than half the general fund spending, is most likely to be cut without new revenue, officials said.
Several counties plan to ask voters to approve bond issues in May. St. Joseph County will ask voters in May to approve a $25.7 million general obligation bond issue to finance work in two school districts. Clinton County will ask voters to approve a $64.3 million bond issue and a $68.6 million bond issue will appear on the Macomb County ballot.