Commissioners consider placing millage requests on spring elections ballot

By: 
Paul Garrod - news4garrod@vineyardpress.biz

    PAW PAW - A millage request for Van Buren County veterans services and a millage renewal request for Van Buren County Public Transit, could both appear on the spring 2020 ballot, if approved by Van Buren County commissioners later this month.
    On Tuesday, county commissioners  in a Committee of the the Whole (COW) meeting,  approved to move both motions forward for the regular county commissioner’s meeting on Nov. 26.
    The veterans services millage request is to approve the ballot language for the Veterans Services 0.10 millage proposal. A local veterans group asked commissioners to place a veterans services millage on the March 2020 ballot. The ballot language needs to be approved by the board and submitted to the County Clerk’s Office prior to Dec. 17.
    Since the creation of the Veteran Services Department, county officials have continued to see a significant growth in service needs. If passed, the millage would generate approximately $340,000 annually for increased outreach and emergency services.
    Van Buren County Administrator John Faul said with a veteran population of approximately 5,000, the county spends about  $30  per veteran. He said if county voters approve the millage request,  Van Buren County could spend  just over $80 per veteran.
    Faul said, “The department is projected to generate over $1.7 million in federal benefits over the next year, which are reinvested in the community in the form of groceries, gas, clothes, and real estate services. With the millage, this return on investment will certainly grow.”
    While a detailed budget has not been developed, in general,  the money will be used to fund one fulltime position and increase the county’s ability to file claims for federal, state and local benefits, including grant opportunities, as well as outreach efforts to assist veterans with whom county officials have not yet made contact.
    The 0.10 millage would generate approximately $340,000 in revenue and would replace the existing Soldier & Sailors Relief  0.025 millage which generated  $85,000. The existing General Fund contributions of $66,500 would remain the same for a total budget of $406,500.
    Commissioners  also approved moving forward a county transit millage renewal request from Transit Director Tony Dacoba. The present millage of  0.2471 expires in 2019. In order to qualify as a renewal millage, it will need to be put on a 2020 ballot.
    The next county-wide general election is in March. Other general elections are in August and November. A non-general election  is scheduled in May.
    At the Sept. 24, Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting, the board instructed Dacoba and Faul to proceed with obtaining legal counsel to develop ballot language for formal approval by Dec. 17.
    The millage generates approximately $800,000 in revenue and represents about 45 percent of the operating budget.
    Commissioners are expected to move the county transit renewal request forward at the Nov. 26, Board of Commissioners meeting. It will then be submitted to the County Clerk’s Office prior to Dec. 17,  to be placed on the March 2020 ballot.
    Commissioners also approved a request from Circuit Court for the Fiscal Year 2020 grant contracts awarded to service the Specialty Court program.
    This year, the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) awarded Van Buren County a total of $716,795 for the Drug Treatment Court, Family Treatment Court, Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program, Adult and Youth Recovery Courts and Sobriety Court.  The acceptance of these awards will allow these programs to continue in 2019-2020:
    Swift and Sure - $190,000, Juvenile Mental Health -  $54,600, Adult Mental Health -  $122,025, Drug Court Byrne Jag: $80,500, Sobriety Court -  $80,634, Drug Court MDCGP: $85,036, and Family Court MDCGP - $104,000.
    Commissioners approved a 2019-2020 services renewal request from the Van Buren County Domestic Violence Coalition. The contract was renewed from Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020.
    The DVC will assist eligible clients with initial personal protection order filings and subsequent filings for hearings as required. Other services to be provided include: crisis intervention, supportive counseling, group counseling/support, criminal justice advocacy, hospital response, and prevention/community education.
    The budgeted amount of the contract is $25,000 to be paid in two equal installments of $12,500 on Nov. 1 and March 1.
  

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