Even though it is an odd year November election, all polling places in Mason County (except for Sheridan and Meade Townships) will be open and have at least one ballot question under consideration. You may also have noticed that early voting options over this last week have been made available at Ludington City Hall and the Scottville Library and will continue to be open (8AM to 4 pm) through election day on Tuesday, November 7th, when polls will close at 8 PM.
Two places with races: Scottville and PM Township
Only two jurisdictions have candidates running for office and the City of Scottville's race features only one candidate running for a seat that will also need to be filled in November 2024. Former Commissioner Eric Thue will be the next city commissioner for the one-year term and his election is likely to make Scottville politics more interesting, as his recall on Mayor Marcy Spencer, who attained her seat in a clear violation of the city charter, is still active and may show up in the May election.
Speaking of recall, two races in Pere Marquette Charter Township (PMCT) were due to recall efforts against Supervisor Jerry Bleau and his wife, Treasurer Karie Bleau started earlier this year by Tim Iteen, Jerry resigned last month, making that election meaningless and forcing the PMCT trustees to choose a successor. Embattled for past billing errors, preferential treatment by the supervisor, and issues with the township's long-term auditor, Karie is facing Sarah Iteen, a fresh face in politics and wife to Tim. Sarah has over a decade of experience as an accountant/clerk at Safe Harbor Credit Union.
As someone who has been following PMCT Board meetings and politics over the last year, we suggest that the recall process has shown the true Bleau colors of the incumbent. She has been part of three odd acts since: sending cease-and-desist letters to fellow trustees and citizens for what appears to be protected speech, recalling (unsuccessfully) two fellow trustees for what appears to be duties of her and her husband, and making a very broad FOIA request that would have cost her and the township a lot of money to fulfill if she had not later retracted it after getting the bill.
Her recall appears critical if PMCT wants to reduce the tensions and get back to normalcy, we also suggest you vote for Kelly Smith over Jerry Bleau even if it does not make any difference, as the unofficial vote total will likely be considered by the rest of the trustees in making their selection, and Smith has shown that he is willing and able to step in at this critical juncture when nobody else came forth.
More than one school-ah looking for more moolah
The two biggest public school districts in the county have ballot issues coming before the voters of our cities, villages and townships.
Ludington's is an operating millage renewal, described by ballot language:
This proposal will allow the school district to continue to levy the statutory rate of not to exceed 18 mills on all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, required for the school district to receive its revenue per pupil foundation allowance. The remaining 2 mills are only available to be levied to restore millage lost as a reduction required by the “Headlee” amendment to the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and will only be levied to the extent necessary to restore that reduction.
Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be assessed against all property, except principal residence and other property exempted by law, in Ludington Area School District, Mason County, Michigan, be increased by 20 mills ($20.00 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) for a period of 10 years, 2024 to 2033, inclusive, to provide funds for operating purposes; the estimate of the revenue the school district will collect if the millage is approved and 18 mills are levied in 2024 is approximately $19,134,495 (this is a renewal of millage that expired with the 2023 tax levy)?
It's usually easy enough to vote for such a ballot question if you do not own any non-homestead property, because this will effectively keep the 18 mill rate on those properties and the added millage sought will keep that rate viable for more than ten years. If you own homestead property (and are registered in the district), you might still vote for it since it's just a renewal anyway that keeps the rate stable for the next decade until another renewal is sought.
And it's likely that it will easily prevail since many of the non-homestead property owners in the district (City of Ludington, along with townships Hamlin, Amber, PM, and Summit) will not be able to vote had they wanted to, since they have their principal residence outside the district. The Ludington Torch endorses voting 'no' on this proposal as its language is confusing and it's mislabeled as a renewal when it is an unabashed increase in taxes.
Here's a couple of documents from just before the May 2014 vote that explained the process better: pamphlet and page. They told us then that the current rate then was 18.393 mills and they renewed it at that rate for ten years. It was probably still above 18 until this last year when Headlee kicked in quite dramatically. Reading the language, this boosts the rates by 20 mills to about 38 mills.
If this is legal, they are at least telling us the truth that they cannot collect more than 18 mills, but it totally negates the Headlee restrictions that are there to protect the taxpayers from local governments growing their revenue by more than the inflation rate. Going around Headlee just to grow the school's coffers by more than the rate of inflation seems like too big of an imposition on our non-homestead taxpayers.
LASD, if you do fail to pass this, humbly ask the voters in May 2024 to raise the operations millage back to 18 mills for ten years and let the Headlee rollbacks do their thing when they kick in; show the taxpayers you have their back just like they had yours back when they approved the $101 million bond in 2019. In ten years, you may be surprised by them bumping you back up to 18 without an issue if any rollbacks occur.
Mason County Central School's third attempt at a bond proposal in the last two years is not very imaginative or adaptive, when one considers their first two attempts to market improvements to the district's taxpayers. Before we analyze that further here are the proposals
Proposal 1: "Shall Mason County Central School District, Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed Seventeen Million Nine Hundred Thirty Thousand Dollars ($17,930,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of:
remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping school buildings; erecting, furnishing, and equipping an addition to the high school building; remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping the Scottville Area Senior Center; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; erecting and equipping a stadium restroom building; and preparing, developing, improving, remodeling, and equipping playgrounds, play fields, athletic fields and facilities, and sites?"
Proposal 2: "Shall Mason County Central School District, Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed Sixteen Million One Hundred Thirty Thousand Dollars ($16,130,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefor, in one or more series, for the purpose of:
erecting, furnishing, and equipping a performing arts/auditorium addition and an office addition to the high school building; partially remodeling, furnishing and refurnishing, and equipping and re-equipping the high school building; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for the high school building; and preparing, developing, and improving the high school site?"
Additional language is on the ballot explaining more particulars of the bonded debt. School leaders have made it known that there really isn't much difference between May's ballot and this one, other than that they have split the projects into two separate proposals and this may appear to be a good strategy for passing something. Consider, those who voted yes on the May ballot are likely to vote yes on both proposals, while those who voted no might agree to one of the two packages offered, or maybe just stay home.
School leaders have figured that they can win a battle of attrition by holding these special elections that cost the district around $50,000 due to having to hold elections in the city and ten townships in Mason County (Amber, Branch, Custer, Eden, Freesoil, Grant Logan, Riverton, Sherman, Victory) and outlast the opposition. Three times in the past, MCC has won bond proposals the third time around, but this time it may not be that easy.
For one, they still have not broken down the money allotments for the proposed individual projects in any manner, it's always in general, so one cannot determine whether the costs are reasonable. While they have kept their informational page on Facebook that they used for the May election, they have not shown any sort of new initiative since that election. They have looked rather anemic in their presentations.
Beyond breaking down the specifics of where the money is going, there is the question of why is the proposal this time around significantly larger than the one proposed in May: the two proposals come with a $34,060,000 while May's proposal for the same thing in one proposal had a $31,000,000 price tag. As this is the same cost as the original proposal, have they reintroduced the projects within that proposal that weren't popular (such as putting artificial turf down on their football field, and sneakily calling them improving/remodeling playing fields)?
Unlike Ludington schools in 2019, MCC has failed every time to come clean on what's in the package and what's the cost for each. And now they snuck in $3,000,000 extra and made it unclear exactly what specific improvements are included in each package and at what costs those are. The Ludington Torch cannot support either of these two proposals and recommend that residents, especially in the townships, make it clear to the district that they want any future attempt at bond issues to be fully explained, detailed, and cost-assessed before any consideration is done by the voters in the future.
Seems to be a lack of reminding the voters about this important vote tomorrow. None of the local info places have ran very much if any notices of the vote except for the "Torch" who is always a=on the cutting edge....
I hate to argue with someone lavishing such praise of the LT, but as for the MCC bond proposals, the Mason County Press has regularly been publishing a lot of pro-bond articles, whether it be testimonials from PTC, Kelli Stojik, Bruce Krieger, Bill Kerans or just plain advocation by having pro-bond ads on their margins and an editorial today 11-06-23.
That latter expresses his philosophy of why we need to pass these proposals part of which is: "You often here [sic] that schools need to be run more like a business. I agree with this concept. So, why aren’t we allowing our school to be more competitive and allowing it to reach all aspects of the socioeconomic spectrum?"
Can someone explain what this actually means? Anyway you are correct, Woodsman, whether you look at the MCP, the COLDNews, our schools, or our radio stations, you can't expect nothing more than propaganda telling us we need to chip in more to a public education we already invest a lot in-- and that could be as high as 38 mills to LASD property owners.
This article should be in the LDN and posted on the front door of every local Government office building. Thanks X for the effort and dedication to deliver information. One thing in particularly that bugs me is how resort towns and areas take advantage of folks who own property in a certain location but do not reside there. It's astonishing how unfair and corrupt this tax system is to non resident owners of property who are made to pay the lions share of taxes so locals can kick back and pick their noses while letting others pay the bills for them. I own some hunting property east of Ludington and I pay a hell of a lot more in taxes than my neighbors who reside there. Reminds me of a pack of blood suckers feeding when a victim puts their foot in the water.
It's the familiar taxation without representation, you might hear about from those having their bank accounts rolled by public schools just because they own non-homestead property or a business in a school district. Just like I can understand why illegal aliens are entering our nation without any problems at the moment, I can understand why parents of large families living in the district would support this. They get all the benefits offered courtesy of other people's taxes, and those other people often get naught.
it seems like we could have a fairer system so that people who decide not to have kids or who haven't had kids in school for decades are not paying the lion's share of the educational costs of others. But the system is fairly entrenched and only getting more embedded.
Two other things have some relevancy. In Scottville, the cost of Prop. 1 (for every $100,000 of property value) would be about $40 to the taxpayer, while it would be about $74 for prop 2 (theater), the difference coming from the length of the bond's existence (30 vs. 15 years). This allows for the school to go looking for more bonded debt in around a dozen years.
Because of the language of the Ludington school millage, I may go after the legitimacy of the vote on it. If a 'yes' vote allow the operational millage to go up to 38 mills, or even just to 20 mills for that matter, it should affect the tax bills of homestead property too. The Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) "exempts a residence from the tax levied by a local school district for school operating purposes up to 18 mills". This infers that any amount beyond 18 mills is fair game to the tax man, so if you vote to raise the rate by 20 mills, you're voting for a 20 mill (or at least 18 mills) tax hike. That's quite a bit.
But what they're doing is bogus. According to MCL 380-1211(1) "Except as otherwise provided in this section and section 1211c, the board of a school district shall levy not more than 18 mills for school operating purposes". In that same section it says: (6) "If a school district levies millage for school operating purposes that is in excess of the limits of this section, the amount of the resulting excess tax revenue must be deducted from the school district's next regular tax levy (the next year)". MCL 380.1211c only relates to additional levies of the 1990s and referencing section 1211.
So even if they move it up to 38 mills by the ignorant yes voters, the rate will be put back to 18 mills and subject to Headlee rollbacks for the next ten years, to my understanding of what the law says, which is opposite of what the school is saying.
XLFD When we voted on the new gym at the high school we where told if we pass the new gym the old gym would meet our needs as a Auditorium. Guess that promise was forgotten.. Is the Astro turf included really grey what is included with phrases like and equipping playgrounds, play fields, athletic fields and facilities, and sites?"
In reading deep into the "Vote Yes" literature, I found that the field upgrades in Prop 1 were for improving drainage at soccer and baseball fields, which is different from the May vote which was for working on drainage at the football field (often a preliminary step towards installing fake turf later). As for the auditorium, it was apparently sufficient until another bond cycle came up.
Still haven't found out where the extra $3 million came from.