Lake County goes to the polls

Road Patrol millage passed by voters

LAKE COUNTY — People across Michigan gathered at the polls on May 5 to cast their votes on a number of issues, both local and statewide. Lake County was no exception.

Although there were only a maximum of three issues for Lake County residents to decide, all three were important decisions for those affected.

The first issue was Proposal 1, a statewide proposal asking Michiganders if they believed the structure of the sales/use tax in the state should be changed or remain the same. The measure was overwhelmingly voted down both in the county and statewide.

Voters had to decide whether they wanted to raise the sales/use tax from 6 percent to 7 percent while eliminating the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. The measure would have also increased the portion of those funds going to the School Aid Fund, expanded the School Aid Fund money to go to community colleges, technical education and career schools while preventing the money from going to four-year colleges, increased earned income tax credit and expanded competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.

Jay Syrewicze, Lake County Road Commission superintendent, said he believed the measure would have been a big positive for the state but believed with so much other baggage attached to the bill, voters believed it would be too much.

"The Lake County Road Commission has been frustrated for a long time," said Syrewicze. "Due to the lack of funding, our roads with a poor rating increased from 10.4 percent in 2005 to 56 percent in 2012 and will continue to decline at a faster rate until we find a solution. The longer we wait, the bigger the problem. Inaction in Lansing needs to be turned into cooperation to achieve a common goal for the good of the people in Michigan."

The other issue voted on by all of Lake County was the Road Patrol millage renewal. This measure was passed by a margin of 1,233 to 1,007. It will extend the three mill ($3 for every $1,000 of taxable value) collection for the Lake County Sheriff's Road Patrol until 2020.

This measure was last passed in 2010 and were it not extended, the funding for the road patrol would have expired at the end of this year. Sheriff Robert Hilts said this would be a huge blow to the effectiveness of the Lake County Sheriff's Department and would have made it all but impossible to properly maintain safety for the county as a whole.

The only other issue on any Lake County ballots were for residents in Elk Township, who voted on the Manistee Intermediate School District Special Education millage renewal. The renewal was passed both in Lake County and the district as a whole. This measure raises .2104 mills for the education of special needs students in the Manistee Intermediate School District. The measure passed and will be in effect until it expires in 2020.

"We're real pleased the people in the intermediate district agreed the special education milage was needed for the kids in our community," said Jim Scranton, special education director for the Manistee Intermediate School District. "People have always supported the special education programs here, and I'm very happy to see they are continuing that dedication."

The next round of elections Lake County residents will be able to take part in will be in August of this year.