Perkins wants road millage put to votersPublished 9:15pm Monday, October 10, 2011
Berrien County Commissioner Zach Perkins spoke about many issues ranging from the proposed county road millage to personal property tax during his
state of the county speech at Monday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of Buchanan-Niles.
Perkins, the board’s Niles representative, said he had received his “marching orders” to put road millage on the ballot after the City of Niles passed a resolution supporting a countywide vote on the issue.
“However, I do tend to agree with some of the people we’ve heard from that it is a little troubling to levy a tax against the property owners,” Perkins said.
The proposed millage is a half-mill, six-year levy that would generate $3.4 million a year to help maintain roads.
Another idea to fund roads, Perkins said he heard, was to add a 20-cent per gallon gas tax coupled with a $200 per year annual tax credit. He said a person driving a 20-mile per gallon car 20,000 miles a year would break even under that plan.
“It might be a way to put the tax on the users a little bit to support the roads,” he said.
Perkins highlighted both sides of the argument for the state’s personal property tax, which allows tax to be levied on a business’s assets. He said he doesn’t agree with the tax, but he understands how much the area relies on the money the tax generates. The tax brings in $2.4 million to the county — about $280,000 to Niles, $144,000 to Buchanan and $125,000 to Niles Township.
“That is a big chunk of money. What happens when you take that away when we are already cutting where we can?” he asked.
Perkins said the county is in the process of implementing a five-year plan to become compliant with Senate Bill 7, which mandates a 20-percent government employee health benefit contribution. The commissioners are currently at 18 percent, but Perkins said he would support a motion to make their contribution 20 percent immediately.
The county is discussing the possibility of hiring a county engineer, Perkins said.
“Our drain office has been spending over the last four years an average of over $500,000 per year for engineering services,” he said. “Those charges are sent back to the residents and we think hiring an engineer might eliminate quite a bit of that.”
Perkins urged all citizens to come to a forum concerning the Niles-Buchanan-Cass Area Transportation Study at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the Niles District Library Community Room, 620 East Main St., Niles.
“They want as many people from the public as possible to come because we’ll be figuring out the next 25 years what do we want to do with roads, walkways and even bike paths in the area,” Perkins said.