Skibbe ready for township’s move to charter township

ALPENA — At its meeting last week, the Alpena Township Board of Trustees voted to become a charter township, and Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe said this move is something the township should have done decades ago.

“We are finally getting to that point,” Skibbe said. “A lot of the fear and anxiety was the fact that there are certain avenues that the township can take where we could increase millages without voter support.”

Skibbe said the direction the township is taking is transparent and there won’t be any increases until it is put on the ballot. The voters can say what they want to put their money toward.

There are some differences between a charter township and a regular township. Skibbe said it can go straight to the ballot as a charter township and at that point, without any voter approval or disapproval, the township can have a five to 10 millage flexibility.

“The biggest difference is the streamline and internal structure where we can shave down some of the time restraint and restrictions that occur,” Skibbe said. “It really comes down to what the people themselves feel is an important thing to increase for purposes. It’s endless in that regard.”

There isn’t a difference from an everyday approach from a taxpayer or township resident, Skibbe said. A difference people will see if something makes it to the ballot in November is a higher level of efficiency.

“Nobody’s taxes and millage rates will increase without support at the ballot,” Skibbe said. “That adds another level of transparency.”

After passing the first resolution, there is now a 60 day period where a petition could be signed. After the 60 day period, the board has to pass a second resolution where it officially will become a charter township.

“At that point in time, the board can make determinations of delegations of duties, whether it be looking into a township superintendent, a manager, or appointing those powers in positions to myself,” Skibbe said. “It’s all the board and the public, so it’s not just one individual. In terms of duties of delegations, it will increase that ability for me to operate more efficiently.”

The township has been operating under the same millages since the 1970s, Skibbe said, and costs for services have increased since then. The township is still operating under the same budget so the change to a charter township will allow the township to appease the wants of taxpayers.

“The only way that we can approve our ability to serve the public is with a higher level of funding, whether that’s through millage or writing grants,” he said. “This affords us the ability to supply the services that the public wants.”

The charter committee looked into all the options of becoming a charter township and Skibbe said the most transparent option was that the township gets to strengthen their position as a charter township and eliminates any fears the public may have about the change.

The change to a charter township is going to move the township into a positive direction going forward.

“Not only is it a positive for the township, it will be a positive for all of our residents because their voice will be heard at the polls of what is important to them,” Skibbe said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.