Alpena Municipal Council elections to move to even-numbered years

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County Library employee Carmen Grubaugh organizes some books at work on Wednesday. On Monday, the Alpena Municipal Council voted to change when the city will hold council elections, which will affect when the library will seek a renewal for the property tax that funds it.

ALPENA — The Alpena Municipal Council voted four-to-one this week to change when the city holds council elections.

The move adds one year to the council members’ current terms and impacts the city library and Dial-a-Ride property taxes.

Mayor Matt Waligora and Councilmen Mike Nowak and Danny Mitchell’s terms will extend to the end of 2024, while Mayor Pro-Tempore Cindy Johnson and Councilwoman Karol Walchak will hold their seats until at least the end of 2026.

The city staggers the terms so the entire board doesn’t roll over during one election.

Johnson was the lone no vote on the change.

Moving the council elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years allows the city to piggyback on state and federal elections held in even-numbered years and save money.

City Clerk Anna Soik said in her report to the council that the last city election in November 2021 cost the city $10,751. That amount could increase because of the increased costs of supplies and labor because of the growing popularity of no-reason absentee voting, Soik said.

She said that, when the early voting process approved by voters in November gets up and running, that could also cause more cost.

Johnson said changing the dates for elections impacts more than the city. It also affects the Alpena County Library and the Thunder Bay Transportation Authority’s property tax for Dial-a-Ride services, she said.

Johnson said the two entities place their tax renewal requests on the ballot at the same time the city has an election. She said that, if they continue to place the millage requests on the ballot in odd-numbered years, they will have to pay for the elections themselves.

Both millages expire at the end of 2023. The renewal requests could be delayed until 2024 and the taxes still collected that year, so the library and TBTA could still share a ballot with the city contests without missing revenue.

“Both of them said they wouldn’t be happy about the change and would have to adjust,” Johnson said. “I think, if they are forced to move to even-numbered years, there could be a funding gap and, if a millage was to fail, there would be less time for them to get it on the ballot again.”

Waligora and Council Members Nowak, Mitchell, and Walchak voted to move the election dates because there is a higher percentage of voter turnout during gubernatorial and presidential elections, which are held in even-numbered years.

“For me, it is all about voter participation,” Nowak said. “You can’t say you’re for voter participation if we continue to keep our elections on odd years. I think the more people that vote in our elections is a positive for our future.”

Soik said she expects a larger voter turnout in the even-numbered years. She said elections that have just city issues have low turnout.

In November 2021, she said, the city recorded only 17% turnout. In 2019, the city recorded only 15%. She said that, during elections with presidential and gubernatorial candidates, turnout nears 50% of registered voters.

The first election with the new schedule will happen in November 2024.


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