Schoolcraft millages pass

MANISTIQUE – Residents of Schoolcraft County took to the polls Tuesday to weigh in on two countywide millages aimed to support both the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility and Schoolcraft County Public Transit.

First on the ballot was a proposal for a 1.5 mill, or $1.50 per $1,00 of taxable value, to provide funds for the operation and maintenance of the Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility. The millage, which passed with 1575 votes in favor and 545 votes against the proposal, will raise an estimated $509,077 in the first year of the levy and be in effect from Dec. 1 through Nov. 30, 2018.

The new millage will be collected along with a currently existing millage currently levied at .5 mills used to pay for a “Maintenance of Effort,” a matching requirement that the county is mandated to pay by the state. The MOE millage will be levied at .25 mills in 2014 and will expire at the end of next year.

“What it is because we’re a county medical care facility … the State of Michigan requires there to be a millage,” said Mike Stephenson, director of administration and finance for the Schoolcraft County Medical Facility, adding that the MOE millage is used exclusively for that bill, but the new millage will be used for maintenance and operating expenses.

A second millage proposed on the ballot and approved by voters will replace an existing .5 mill millage that has been in place for 20 years with a .587 mill millage for the operations and expansion of the Schoolcraft County Public Transit. The millage proposal passed with 1431 in favor of the proposal and 684 votes against.

In addition to the operating expenses currently paid for by the .5 mills, the new millage will allow public transit to remain open an extra hour on weekdays – extending service to 6 p.m. – add Saturday service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and add Friday and Saturday evening service from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

“This isn’t just expansion, this is our operating (funds),” Schoolcraft County Public Transit Director John Stapleton told the Daily Press prior to results being tallied Tuesday.

Without the millage public transit would have lost the operational funding to provide the services currently offered throughout Schoolcraft County. This would have forced public transit to consider restructuring their services – possibly by requiring passengers to schedule rides days in advance.

“It’s tough for us to say this is where we’re going to be down the road because we have to go to the voters every five years,” said Stapleton.

“We appreciate the support we’ve had from voters for 32 years for Schoolcraft County Transport. … We don’t take that for granted,” he added.

Manistique residents also were given an opportunity to vote for two open council seats. Councilwoman Janet Jeffcott was reelected to her council seat with a total of 409 votes, and Elizabeth Hill, who received 408 votes, was elected to fill the council seat vacated by Mayor David Peterson. No other candidates filed for the open seats, and the council will determine who will become the city’s mayor at the next council meeting.