Leighton Twp. to ask for millage renewals, increases

Perhaps the biggest downside of population growth in any town, village, city or township is the inevitable need to raise taxes to handle growing needs.

Leighton Township officials were burdened with this lesson Thursday night in a discussion about putting millage proposals on the August primary election ballot Aug. 6. They reluctantly decided to seek millage renewals for public safety and roads, but also agreed to seek an additional mill for both over a four-year period.

Public safety’s current tax rate is 1.4183 mill and the current rate for roads is 0.9403, with both reflecting rollbacks because of provisions of the Headlee Amendment.

Township Clerk Rachel Fennema acknowledged the risks in the board’s action.

“We don’t want to shoot for the moon and then get nothing,” she said, promising that if the requests were defeated in August, they’d ask again in the November general election.

She and her four colleagues on the board agreed that the millage increases were necessary in light of Fire Chief Matt Weston reporting that Leighton is one of the fastest growing municipalities in Michigan with a 46 percent population increase over the last 10 years. Building inspection reports given Thursday showed there’s no slowing down, with 18 building permits granted over the first three months of 2024.

Library Board member Faith Miedema added that Leighton Township Library reported its highest circulation numbers ever in March.

All the signs point to a fast-growing township that is having pressing infrastructure and public safety needs, but the current millage rate isn’t adequate to handle them.

The wild card in anticipated expenses is the old abandoned Moline Elementary school building soon will be razed, but there may be additional costs if inspectors find asbestos.

These cold, hard facts and unpleasant economic possibilities prompted the Township Board to table an offer by the Allegan County Road Commission to gravel 139th Avenue from Ninth to Second Street for $90,000 because Treasurer Jaci Bultsma noted the township is $16,000 short in its road fund.

In other business Thursday evening, the board:

  • Decided to holds it meeting next month at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, instead of Thursday, May 9.
  • Placed on hold any more plans to expand the township hall parking lot in anticipation of Election Day traffic in August and November. 

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