2018-04-19 / Views

Timing important for millage request(s)

Sooner or later the building blocks of government are bought with taxes, and for local governments its local property owners who pay those taxes.

Such will be the case for the future operating millage for Leland Township Fire and Rescue. Several property owners in and near Leland want the Township Board to seek an increase in the property tax rate to pay for a second full-time fire and rescue crew.

Leading up to passage of a bond to rebuild and enlarge fire stations in Leland and Lake Leelanau, the township’s emergency responders were mostly stationed at the Lake Leelanau station. The Leland station lacked adequate overnight facilities. Since both buildings have been renovated, the crew’s overnight base has remained at the Lake Leelanau station — about five miles and six minutes away from Leland.

Some folks in Leland are not happy with that arrangement. They are petitioning the Township Board to seek an increase in the property tax rate along with — or rather than — a renewal with the aim of funding two full-time crews for the township.

We don’t recall hearing prior to passage of the bond that the township fire and rescue crew would be spending nights in Leland. We do distinctly remember that the plan was to update each building, not expand coverage.

Before the vote we opined that the bond needed to address structural and safety concerns for both sites, because closing one might cause members of that community to vote “no” for funds to the remaining fire station.

The truth is that Leland Township has been and always will be described as a fractured voting block. What’s good for Lake Leelanau isn’t always perceived as good for Leland, and vice versa.

Our intent here is not to dig up bones or history. Instead, we suggest the Township Board consider two tacts in addressing the concerns brought by Leland residents.

One is to move ahead the operations renewal to the Primary election, and change the request to an increase. That’s a tight schedule, but doable. Should voters turn down the request, the renewal could be sought as planned in November with no detriment to the fire and rescue revenue stream.

Another responsible approach would be to seek the renewal in November with one ballot question, and offer the increase as a separate request.

The irresponsible approach would be to place just the increase on the General Election, which would come with an unsaid statement of, “Pay more or put emergency care in jeopardy.”

From what we’ve observed, that’s not the intent of the Township Board. Hopefully, those seeking to add a shift of emergency responders agree that there’s no reason to put undue pressure on voters to increase taxes.

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