ANN ARBOR, MI — Voters in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area will decide the fate of one of the largest local property tax increases in recent history in the Aug. 2 primary.
The board of directors of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, also known as TheRide, voted nearly unanimously Thursday night, April 21, to place a $2.38 million proposal on the ballot at Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the Township of Ypsilanti.
If approved by voters, it would be levied for five years from 2024, which would amount to a 1.68 mill increase to a 0.7 mill tax that the three communities first approved in 2014.
TheRide estimates it would collect more than $22 million in tax revenue in the first year, paying to maintain and continue to expand local transit services, including bus services and services adapted transport for the elderly and the disabled.
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The tax is separate from another tax of approximately $2 million that Ann Arbor pays and a tax of approximately $1 million that Ypsilanti pays for TheRide services.
The only person who voted against the proposal to voters Thursday night was Ryan Hunter, Ypsilanti Township’s representative on TheRide’s board. He shared the concerns expressed by Ypsilanti Township officials who spoke at the meeting, asking the council to wait.
“It will be a test for our residents,” said John Newman, administrator of the township.
“It’s a horrible economic time to make such a large increase,” Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo added, saying residents and businesses are hurting from the pandemic.
“I think you’re going to hurt people who are hurting right now,” she said. “Now is not the time to do that.”
The increase would cost property owners an additional $168 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value.
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The proposal is a response to what the agency is hearing from the community, said TheRide board member Raymond Hess, director of transportation for the city of Ann Arbor.
“We have a bold vision…to increase ridership, to improve the service we provide,” he said, adding that the agency can’t get there by continuing the status quo.
Services funded by the new revenues will help bring more mobility to people and solve the climate crisis, he said, suggesting it will sway more people away from using cars.
“You can’t build your way out of congestion, but you can definitely carry a bunch of people on a bus,” he said.
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Jesse Miller, Ypsilanti’s representative on the board, noted that the five-year mileage is the first step in a long-term plan.
“There have been people who have been asking us to do this for years and I have no interest in delaying,” he said, adding, “I backed off on that, but if anything , I would ask for more because we were asked to do more.
Hunter voted against the mileage amount and put it on the August ballot. He urged his colleagues to consider not going to voters until the November election, but other council members argued there was too much election noise and the ballot was too crowded in November.
Susan Pollay, an Ann Arbor representative on TheRide’s board of directors, recalled the Southeast Michigan regional transit mileage proposal that went to voters in November 2016. One of the reasons she think she failed is that the ballot was crowded and many people, especially new voters in student areas, did not return their ballots to get to the mileage proposal.
The tranquility of an August election for TheRide’s proposal this year is good, Pollay said, adding there was still time to let voters in the three different communities know what services they would get for the money.
Hunter asked about the possibility of creating an exemption for certain areas so that people who will not use the service do not have to pay the new tax. TheRide CEO Matt Carpenter said he’s not sure there’s a legal ability to do so.
Hunter also asked about the section of the tax proposal stating that city center development authorities and local development funding authorities, as well as the county brownfields authority, will be able to capture some of the tax revenue. for their purposes. That’s standard for mileage and allowed by state law, said TheRide attorney Steve Liedel, estimating it will have a five- to six-figure annual impact on revenue.
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