The township is asking for a 0.95-mill transportation tax that will include about 0.45 mill for the Harbor Transit expansion into the township, as well as provide funds — about 0.5 mill — to repair, construct or reconstruct roads, bridges or drainage structures. This equates to about $95 per year for a home with a taxable value of $100,000, according to Township Manager Bill Cargo.
Township officials view the transportation millage as a “system” — with public transportation and road maintenance working alongside each other.
If approved, the five-year millage is expected to raise $605,200 in its first year with about $52,000 being “captured” by the township’s Downtown Development Authority.
Currently, Harbor Transit services the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg and Spring Lake Village. It has separate contracts for Meijer and Timberview Apartments in the township.
Although the millage rate will change from year to year, depending on ridership levels and state and federal funding, it will remain a flat rate for each of the participating municipalities, Cargo said.
“We think there is a growing need (for Harbor Transit) in the township for a number of reasons,” Cargo said, explaining that the rising price of gas, as well as a change in driving habits, has more people utilizing mass transit services.
“It will spread the cost over more people,” Harbor Transit Director Tom Manderscheid said of the possible additional funds.
Harbor Transit averages about 140,000 rides per year between the three municipalities it currently serves, Manderscheid said. The expanded service into the township — about 29 square miles — is expected to add about 61,000 rides per year and require three additional buses to Harbor Transit’s current fleet of 18.
“We’ll be doubling our service population and tripling our area of service,” Manderscheid said.
He said they expect to hire 10 additional employees if Harbor Transit buses begin rolling through Grand Haven Township.
If approved, Harbor Transit officials will also look at creating a fixed route system that will include additional mileage in the township in addition to its existing on-demand busing service.
“We want to make it as economical as we can,” Manderscheid said, explaining details for fixed routes have not yet been determined.
The other half of the millage request will help fund the township’s roads, which are under control by the Ottawa County Road Commission.
Currently, the township uses money from its general fund to help supplement road maintenance work done by the Ottawa County Road Commission. The township has not been able to do any road maintenance in the last three years because of lost funds from the perpetual decline in property taxes and state revenue sharing, and needs another revenue source to supplement road projects, according to Cargo.
Last year, the township saw a 10 percent decline in property taxes, and compared to 2001, the township received $413,000 less in state revenue funds, he said.
“That money is never going to come back,” Cargo said. “We just can’t afford to do what needs to be done with our infrastructure with the continuing (loss) in funds. We have to step up, and if we don’t step up, then it won’t get done.”
He explained that the money from the millage will not be sufficient enough to fund road maintenance entirely, and the township will still need to draw money from the general fund to cover road-related costs.