Dial-a-Ride millage in St. Louis and Ithaca will be on November ballot… if all goes as planned

By Ralph Echtinaw

St. Louis voters must wait until November now to say yea or nay to a proposed millage to support the Alma Transit Center’s Dial-a-Ride bus service.

Although Dial-a-Ride buses have served St. Louis, and to a lesser extent Ithaca, for a couple years, The Alma City Commission decided that any Gratiot County municipality that wants the service to continue must pass a millage supporting Dial-a-Ride.

Officials in Ithaca and St. Louis had hoped to have the proposal on the August ballot (along with Pine River Township), but their city charters don’t have enough “cap space” to accommodate a 0.96 millage.

But a workaround was discovered. St. Louis, Ithaca and potentially Breckenridge could form a transit authority, and the authority would have the millage put on the November ballot. Then the millage wouldn’t count toward the charter limits for the cities.

“The direction we’re moving in now is that at least the two cities would work to form an authority,” Giles said via email (emphasis his). “It’s uncertain whether there will be more than two authority members.”

Pine River Township trustees approved an August ballot question on the millage last month but rescinded it on April 16. “We plan to work with the other communities to find a path to offering voters a successful transit ballot proposal,” Supervisor Kevin Beeson said via email. “This will not happen prior to the November general election.”

The next steps are to draft articles of incorporation for a transit authority and see who else in the county wants to join the authority. The filing deadline to get on the November ballot is Aug. 11.

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.

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