by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

With Election Day 2016 fast approaching, many Durand residents are still undecided on which way to vote on the proposed street and sidewalk millage ballot questions. After hearing calls to fix the streets for years, Durand City Council members are excited to be able to put the decision in the voters’ hands. If approved, the city would levy up to six mills for the next 20 years, which would amount to the $6.2 million to $6.4 million needed to pave or repair every street in the city. In a separate ballot question, voters will be asked to approve a one-mill sidewalk millage that would make it possible to add sidewalks to the roughly one-third of the city that is currently without, which amounts to approximately 56,000 feet of sidewalks.

The council held three community discussions Nov. 20 to address any questions residents may have about the two ballot questions, and City Manager Amy Roddy reports that the sessions were productive, though somewhat sparsely attended. If the street millage is approved, the council plans to begin the project in the spring of 2017, with the project to be completed within three or four years. Taxpayers would see an initial hike in their taxes, but Roddy and the council have rearranged the payment schedule to ease the burden as much as possible. Also, the city would not be able to collect the full six mills until 2020, after the current two-mill street millage and four-mill water debts are paid off.

In the first year, 2017, residents would pay an additional four mills on top of the current six mills they pay now, making the total tax levy 10 mills per resident. The city’s current two-mill street millage drops off the books to begin 2018 though, so residents would pay only eight mills in 2018 and 2019. The city tax rate would drop back to its current rate of six mills in 2020, after the city’s water levy expires.

Put in simpler terms, a property owner with a State Equalized Value (SEV) of $50,000 would pay $200 more in 2017 than they are currently paying, and $100 more in 2018 and 2019. Luckily for Durand residents, the average SEV for the city of Durand is $39,800, so that translates to an average tax increase of $159.20 in 2017, and an average increase of $79.60 in 2018 and 2019.

If both ballot questions are approved, city residents would pay an additional $199 in 2017, and $119.40 in 2018 and 2019. Per month, that would translate to an extra $16.58 in 2017, and an extra $9.95 in 2018 and 2019.

The city was scheduled to be allotted $244,248.48 in state road funding in 2016, with an estimated $118,000 coming in from the existing street millage. Roddy pointed out recently that much of that money is used for routine street maintenance, street sweeping, and snow plowing. Additionally, Durand Department of Public Works Director Steve Mince said the average cost to repair one city block of road ranges from $75,000 to $90,000. Using Fauble St. as an example of the exorbitant cost of road repairs, the two blocks of W. Fauble that were repaired somewhat recently will cost the city approximately $74,000 to repair. Conversely, the two blocks of E. Fauble, which are in much worse shape, will require closer to $290,000 to repair.

While taxable values within the city seem to have stagnated, the city is counting on proposed state road funding to further ease the burden on taxpayers. If the proposed Michigan Transportation Funding increase is approved, Durand state road funding could jump to nearly $400,000 in 2021, with the council’s plan being to use some of those additional funds to pay down the debt incurred by the street project, which would lower the tax rates for city residents further.

City of Durand Seeks Road and Sidewalk Millage was last modified: November 7th, 2016 by Karen Elford