Both proposals pass in Benton Harbor special election - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

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Both proposals pass in Benton Harbor special election


UPDATE: The city of Benton Harbor voted yes on both proposals in Michigan's special election Tuesday.

Both proposals passed rather decisively. The first proposal, for the charter millage restoration received 425 votes in favor, and 66 not in favor. The second, a general operating proposal received 418 favorable votes and 76 votes not in favor.  

City leaders say this means going forward they'll have a better idea of what they can do with next year's budget.

The proposals Benton Harbor residents voted on locks in their property tax rates for the next 10 years, which will help fund the city's fire and police departments.

It was the second time this millage had been voted on, but back in November people voted no. The city says that was from a lack of education, but now that they were able to educate the public on what this meant for them, over 80 percent of the voters said yes.

The renewal of the millage means folks in Benton Harbor will pay about $28 in taxes per $100,000 worth of property compared to the $75 they might have had to pay had residents voted no.

"Very important election," said Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. "The citizens of Benton Harbor came through and it is greatly appreciated. I told someone earlier you might see me dancing in the street a little later after it hits home. Right now though I'm just thinking about where we go from here."

Where city officials will go from here is now figuring out next year's budget. Now that they know the money will be coming in, city officials say it makes putting together the budget a lot easier.

"It gives us a little bit of breathing room when we make these budget decisions. We still have a long road ahead," said Tony Saunders, emergency financial manager. "But this definitely gives us the ammunition we need to move Benton Harbor forward in a very positive direction."

According to Saunders this election will bring in the city roughly $400-500,000 that the city would have had to find elsewhere.

It's election day Tuesday in Michigan and in Benton Harbor, leaders are hoping for a good community turnout. 

There are two proposals on the ballot. One will restore 10 mills for the general operating budget. Voters turned that down back in November. The other will restore the charter mill which was rolled back 2.9 mills. Leaders fear if the proposals don't pass, there will be financial challenges in the future.

"Without this mill age passing, it doesn't give us the consistency and the stability that we need in order to project our budget on an ongoing basis so this is a very critical time for the city," says emergency financial manager, Tony Saunders. 

Leaders in the community have worked hard to make sure everyone understands what this vote means and mayor James Hightower is hoping for a big turnout at the polls. "We're hearing the majority of the citizens of Benton Harbor understand this and they are voting yes."

83 counties in Michigan will be participating in the special elections.

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