Voters to see tax proposals in August for ambulance, library, Dial-A-Ride

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz From left to right, Alpena Fire Department firefighters James Bolanoski, Cain Makowski, and Adrienne Thompson sort through supplies in the back of an ambulance on Wednesday. In August, voters in Alpena County will vote on a proposed renewal of a property tax that funds ambulance service countywide.

ALPENA — Voters in the Alpena area have the future of countywide ambulance services, Alpena County Public Library operations, and Dial-A-Ride service in their hands during the August primary election.

Alpena County voters will also decide whether to pay more in property taxes to help the county make up revenue it loses because of a state law that automatically lowers local governments’ tax rates in certain circumstances. County officials hope the tax hike will help stabilize a large budget shortfall that is now well over $1 million.

The so-called “Headlee rollback” in state law requires local governments to reduce their millage rates when annual growth on existing property values exceeds the rate of inflation. Governments can ask voters to raise the tax rate.

Three of the four tax proposals in Alpena County will go before voters across the county, while the proposed tax renewal for Dial-A-Ride will go before Alpena residents only.

Information on tax proposals in Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties wasn’t immediately available.


The countywide tax hike, which county commissioners are calling a “Headlee rollup,” is needed, the county commissioners say, because of the amount of property tax money the county has lost because of the Headlee rollback.

The revenue would be used to fund county operations, including the Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, townships in Alpena County and the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District would also reclaim what they have lost.

Currently, property owners pay 4.7749 mills. If the proposal passes, that would increase to 5.48 mills on the summer tax bill. Those are the same tax rates property owners in the county paid until Headlee was passed in 1976.

The increase would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $35 in additional taxes per year.

In addition, each township would bump its tax rate from about 1 mill to 1.29 mills — costing the owner of a $100,000 house about $14.50 per year — and the AMA-ESD levy would climb from 0.2113 mills to 0.25 mills, costing the owner of a $100,000 house about $2 in additional taxes per year.

The increased tax would remain in place until voters voted to remove or change it.

County commissioners say that, if the proposal fails, the current state of the budget may force them to cut jobs and services.


Alpena County is seeking a renewal of its property tax used to pay for ambulance transport service for the entire county.

The six-year, 1.5-mill tax is expected to generate $1.7 million in the first year and cost residents owning a home valued at $100,000 about $75 a year.

For years, the county has contracted with the Alpena Fire Department to provide the ambulance service. The current contract is expiring at the end of the year, and officials have not yet agreed upon a new contract.

If the proposal fails, the county would need to fund the service on its own, which would cost more than $1 million a year.

City residents would not be impacted should the millage fail, as ambulance service is paid for from the city’s property tax.


The library is seeking a 0.7462 mill, 10-year renewal of its operational and maintenance millage. It would generate about $842,000 in its first year and cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $38 a year.

Jessica Luther, assistant director of the library, said the library depends on the property tax to keep its doors open. She said that, if the millage fails in August, it could be presented to voters again in November, but, even if it passed then, it would be months before the tax revenue would begin to roll in again.

Luther said that, if the proposed tax renewal fails both times, the library has only enough money in savings to keep the doors open for about three months and then officials would either have to make large-scale cuts, including to employees, or the library would have to close.


Property owners in Alpena will vote on a millage that may keep the cost of Dial-A-Ride affordable.

Residents in Alpena depend on the Thunder Bay Transportation Authority’s Dial-A-Ride program for rides in the city. According to TBTA board President Adam Poll, TBTA is seeking a five-year property tax to keep the Dial-A-Ride program operating in Alpena at an affordable cost. The current tax is for 0.9957 mills and TBTA is seeking a slight increase to an even 1 mill.

It would cost people who own a home valued at $100,000 about $50 a year.

If the millage passes, the reduced rates of 75 cents a ride for city residents would remain. If it fails, it is likely fares will need to be increased to cover increased costs.

Currently, residents who don’t live in the city pay $1.50 per ride.

Poll said that, last year, nearly 100,000 rides were provided to people in Alpena, many of whom don’t have other means of transportation and depend on the shuttles to get to and from doctor appointments, rides to stores, and other locations.

The primary election happens Aug. 6, but early voting may begin as soon as July 7 and must begin by July 27. Clerks must make absentee ballots available by June 27.


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