ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Residents of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township are expected to vote in May on a proposed public transit tax to raise nearly $4.4 million in annual funding to implement a five-year transit improvement plan.
Campaigns with competing messages are taking place after the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority voted last week to place a 0.7-mill transit tax on the May 6 ballot in the three Washtenaw County communities, The Ann Arbor News reported.
A mill is $1 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value, and Michigan assesses property at half its estimated market value. The tax would cost the owner of a home with a market value of $200,000 and an assessed value of $100,000, for example, $70 per year.
The new tax would be on top of the 2 mills Ann Arbor residents already pay and the 1 mill Ypsilanti residents already pay for AAATA services.
"This is a 'pay to play' financing mechanism in which the service that each community receives corresponds to the resources they contribute, and I think as we present this information it will be well received," said AAATA board member Roger Kerson.
The plan includes more direct service with redesigned bus routes, extended hours on weekdays, extended weekend service, improved bus stops, increased service frequency on many routes, and expanded services for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
Leaders of the "More Buses" campaign plan to reach out to voters and encourage them to approve the tax to fund a 44 percent increase in Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority services. The campaign slogan is: "More buses. More places. More often."
Opposition group "Better Transit Now" plans to urge residents to reject the measure, saying there's no guarantee services will improve.
Kathy Griswold, who led a group called "Protect Our Libraries" to defeat a ballot proposal for a new downtown library in 2012, said some of the same people who helped defeat the library proposal are opposing the transit proposal. She said Ann Arbor residents pay enough already.
"I definitely think there's a lot of fat" in the AAATA's budget, she said, "and I believe the AAATA has not focused on their mission."