No increase in taxes in Ontonagon — for now

Skip Schulz/For the Gazette The Ontonagon Village Council passed its 2019-20 fiscal year budget at its meeting on Monday, which holds taxes and water and sewer rates at the same level as the past year.

ONTONAGON — The Village Council on Monday held a public hearing on the upcoming fiscal year’s budget.

In front of a crowded council chambers, village manager Joe Erickson said there will not be an increase in property taxes, nor and increase in water and sewer rates.

Erickson said the village millage will remain at 11 mills, “The same as last year. I cannot promise it will never be increased, but with this budget it will not be increased at this time.”

Council President Ken Waldrop reiterated what Erickson said, saying: “We’re not saying that they will not go up sometime, just not at this time. Property taxes have not gone up because we lost the mill (Smurfit-Stone), so people could not afford to do it, although we need the money more than ever.”

Waldrop said the village is paying a lot of retirement for the hospital, estimating about 21-25 percent of the village’s General Fund is used for that.

The budget presented had revenues and expenses at $3,266,245.

The Water Fund budget is at $885,400, Sewer Fund is $403,300, Local Street Fund is $368,100, Road Fund is $251,300, Equipment Fund is $238,700, and Major Street Fund is $235,200.

Erickson stated there is an increase of $100,000 for the Local Street Fund.

“We are looking at an undertaking of a road project on our streets,” he said.

The Council unanimously supported the proposed budget.

In his report, Erickson talked about the governor’s proposed 45-cent increase in state fuel taxes. This brought about a comment from council member Mike Mogen, who stated how this increase will have a negative impact on the area’s economy.

“We’ve been trying to get the tourist business up here, and everything we’ve been doing in related to that. Now in one swoop the governor is destroying every opportunity we’ve had,” Mogen stated. “So get a hold of your representative and oppose this.”

Erickson also reported he received news that the village will be on the next low to moderate income community list for Project Rising Tide.

“This means the village will be eligible for additional funding through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” he said.

The council approved paying the travel, lodging, and food expenses to Council Member Tony Smydra to attend a economic development legislative town hall meeting in Sault St. Marie.

In the discussion about operation and conduct of Village Council public meetings, Smydra talked about the use of recording equipment and which media has the credentials to be considered media.

“I have the list from the Western UP Health Department as to who the media is,” remarked Smydra. This brought about a question from the reporter from the Ontonagon Herald as to where that list came from.

“This is from the Western UP Health Department,” Smydra replied.

The council agreed to lease the building behind the former Ontonagon School on the Greenland Road to the Ontonagon School District for $250 per month for one year, then a month-to-month basis after.