Tonight is the Ingham County Board of Commissioners' last chance to get a proposal on the November ballot, and the City of Lansing has made a request for a special millage supporting parks.
It's a half mill increase for Ingham County residents that would generate more than $3.2 million in it's first year, if approved. The money would go towards the maintanence of parks considered to be an asset to the region, like the River Trail, the Ranney Skate Park, and the Fenner Nature Center.
But Ingham County Commissioner Steve Dougan calls it a tax grab that would only benefit Lansing, and says the proposal doesn't belong on the November ballot.
"I think it's very sketchy," Dougan said.
He says the request was made by the City of Lansing about nine days ago to help raise money to maintain parks like the Lansing River Trail and Fenner Nature Center.
"So the mayor's office is saying will you please put 25 cents on to support these because they are regional assets," said Dougan. "That millage request has now been expanded to 50 cents, with vague language about supporting other communities, but no where in there has there been a budget document."
The proposal doesn't indicate how the millage money would be specifically allocated to parks in the county.
Ingham County Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook supports the millage. "I agree it's done last minute," she said. "It could have been better planned, but it is still needed. It's one of those instances where you raise the money, and then determine how it be used."
If the board approves putting the millage on the ballot and it passes in November, Bahar-Cook says the city and county would quickly determine which parks would get the money, and finalize a plan by December. She also said the millage wouldn't just go towards parks in Lansing.
"It would be good for the region and county, and it fits into plans to make the region more attractive to businesses and residents," Bahar-Cook explained.
But Dougan doubts some of Lansing's parks have a strong regional pull.
"How many folks in Stockbridge come down and use the Lansing skate park?" Dougan said. "How many folks in Onondaga Township have used the [Fenner Nature Center] arboretum? Probably not many."
He says the broader issue is how many of these facilities Ingham County residents should pay for, instead of finding funding on a more local level. If the board decides to put the millage request on the ballot, the question will be up to voters to answer in November.
The office of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has not responded yet to calls about the millage.
The board will meet at 6:30 tonight to vote on the proposal.