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Village Equipment Key to Tax Increase

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Grass Lake Village officials are leaving no stone unturned to upgrade and repair aging road equipment.  Beneath those stones could be a millage increase to pay for badly needed upgrades.

At a budget workshop last month, Village Department of Public Works Director Paul Lammers laid out a panorama of repairs necessary to keep up with Village roads maintenance.

“Our equipment is aged and needs to be replaced,” Lammers said in a telephone interview.  “It’s just a matter of when stuff is going to break down, and then we’re going to be in trouble.”

Lammers presented information about the aging trucks and the costs for upgrading them.  The dump trucks are inching toward and surpassing age 30.  Electrical malfunctions and rusted-out chassis are just the tip of the iceberg.  Repairing the vehicles has become cost-prohibitive, Lammers said.

“It’s a pretty old setup,” he said.  “If you add up all the equipment the pricing of two mils each year only keeps it up to date.”

Members voted to raise the current millage rate, 2.356 mils, raising the total millage rate to 10 mils for Village residents.  Councilwoman Sharon Sherwood voted against the increase in favor of finding additional savings in the budget.

“I had said so from the beginning,” she said. “I had a real problem with it. We had to raise the sewer rates and the water rates.  A millage would hurt the community.”

“The board has talked about cutting stuff, but budget cutting isn’t going to work,” Lammers countered.   

Sherwood said that she would have “reluctantly” gone for a one mil increase. Any more than that would not have been fair to the community, she said.   

A 2.356 mil would increase property taxes on homes worth $100,000 with a taxable value of $50,000 by $117.80 annually.  The increase would generate an additional tax revenue of $66,947.30. Two of the mils would go into the equipment coffers with the remainder allocated to the general fund.

Village President Joe DeBoe said that the Village hasn’t had a millage increase since 1984.  “Nobody likes to raise taxes,” he said. “But I also believe in paying for services to keep up the quality in our Village.  We need trucks to keep the roads clean.”

Little snowfall this winter has helped to keep down costs of road maintenance, Lammers said, but it’s only a stopgap.  “We are saving money but you can’t count on that every time.  Equipment is everything. If we can’t keep the dump truck running we can’t keep the roads clear. When it breaks we have to make the parts because we can’t pull them off the shelf — that’s how out of date the trucks are.  We just keep patching them together to keep them running.”

Village Trustee Joel Grimm agreed. “As a village, the last time Grass Lake raised its millage and purchased new DPW dump trucks and plows, Reagan was in the White House.  A lot has happened in 30-plus years.  Meanwhile, our DPW’s equipment has been aging without the ability to replace it.”       

DeBoe said that the millage increase is necessary for long-term sustainability, “to better serve our village. We have to make sure that things are in place to have a secure future.”

“It’s a necessary evil,” Village Manager Tom Nolte said of the tax hike. “It’s not just the equipment but the roads as well.  We’ve got a lot of roadwork to do.”

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