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Eaton County approves property tax increase proposal for November ballot

Tiffany Tertipes
/
Unsplash

Eaton County has approved a ballot question for the Nov. 5 election designed to raise property taxes to cover a projected budget shortfall.

The Eaton County Board of Commissioners approved the ballot language Thursday, which would increase property tax levies by 3.0 mills. In total, voters will be asked to approve 9.7 mills for the county, various townships and the county intermediate school district.

Officials say the tax limitation increase would cover significant budget shortfalls, which will amount to more than a $23 million deficit in the next two fiscal years.

Eaton County
Eaton County is expecting a $1.3 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year, which will compound to over $23 million by the end of the 2026-2027 fiscal year.

"From public safety and veteran services to emergency management and secure elections, residents count on Eaton County," said Commissioner Brandon Haskell in a statement. "My colleagues and I, Republicans and Democrats, have all supported this because we know what is at stake."

The proposal represents the first millage adjustment for Eaton County since 1978.

In addition to maintenance issues and technology costs, Eaton County Commissioner Terrance Augustine said the county is severely understaffed in nearly every department.

"We are struggling to keep up with the private sector specifically, but we also compete a lot with the state of Michigan," Augustine told WKAR after the Eaton County Advisory Tax Committee approved putting the proposal forward earlier this month.

"We think that if we can offer more competitive salaries, that it will attract talent to the county."

Augustine said public safety, which requires 40% of the county's budget, is the most impacted by budget shortfalls. He said many employees in the sheriff's office are forced to work multiple overtime shifts.

Ahead of the approval, the Eaton County Board of Commissioners and the tax advisor committee held several town hall meetings with the public and county employees to discuss the issue.

"We wanted to be as open and transparent as we could with the public," Augustine said.

If the proposal is rejected by voters, officials say the county will have to lay off about a quarter of its workforce.

"This is going to have a major impact on services provided not just in public safety, but in areas throughout the entire county," Augustine said. "We all felt that it would have been negligent on our part to not ask our voters if they wanted to pay more. And I think the board is ready to accept the will of the voters."

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