By Ralph Echtinaw
The effort to get a millage supporting the Alma Transit Center’s Dial-a-Ride bus service on the August ballot in St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township has hit a bump in the road.
City “charter limitations” in St. Louis and Ithaca prevent the plan from going forward, said City Manager Kurt Giles, although doing it with just St. Louis and Pine River Township would be perfectly legal.
Officials from all three municipalities are now thinking about forming a transit authority. The authority would then get the millage on the ballot in St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township.
Giles met with officials from Ithaca and Pine River Township on Wednesday, April 8, where legal counsel specializing in these types of municipal funding arrangements was present.
“Putting together a proposed timeline and draft articles of incorporation for a transit authority are the next steps,” Giles said via email.
Alma Transit Center Director Brett Baublitz told St. Louis councilmen in March that he is confident a millage request would pass based on results from a postcard survey that showed 62 out of 111 St. Louis residents, 97 of 199 Pine River Township residents and 78 of 140 Ithaca residents favor a millage to fund Dial-a-Ride.
The sample size, however, is small, as more than 1,800 postcard surveys were mailed and only 450 were returned.
The Alma Transit Center has 14 buses and five vans. Three new buses should be delivered within two months. and two new 14-passenger vans are on the way.
Ironically, the coronavirus pandemic has led Alma to suspend Dial-a-Ride service for all but people who need rides to doctors or medical treatment.
The millage plan is likely more appealing to St Louis councilmen because the city has been contributing to Dial-a-Ride every year via the general fund. The amount was $5,000 in 2018 and $10,000 last year. If the millage passes that money could be spent elsewhere.
A millage of 0.96 (what has been proposed so far) would cost property owners 96 cents per $1,000 of taxable value of their homes. If your house’s taxable value is $50,000 you would pay $48 a year for Dial-a-Ride.
To find the taxable value of your house, take a look at the “Notice of Assessment, Taxable Valuation and Property Classification” that the city mails to you each year. Multiply that taxable value by 0.96 to see how much you would pay.