Charlotte City Council weighing special tax to fund the fire department

Tax hike may be needed for fire department
Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 10:32 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, Mich. (WILX) - The city of Charlotte is facing a tough choice. Higher taxes, or lower public safety.

The Charlotte City Council is considering asking property owners to pay a 4.5 mill assessment to keep the fire department open.

Property owners in Charlotte already pay 14.25 mills per year. The proposed increase would add $450 per year to the tax bill for a home with an assessed value of $200,000.

Mayor Michael Armitage says the tax assessment isn’t something he wants to do, but it’s a matter of choosing public safety or dollars.

“We’re stuck between, you know what’s worse of two evils?” Armitage says.

Charlotte has a big-time deficit and is on pace to blow through its $300,000 in savings by the end of the year, according to the mayor.

Money for the fire department normally comes out of the city’s general fund. He says adding the assessment will help the city pay operational costs and pensions.

“We only have 48 employees currently in the city, so we have more people drawing retirement benefits than we have,” Armitage says. “And when you’re funded that low, we’re essentially just paying out what’s being drawn on to that fund. So we’re already on the state’s radar, we already had to file reports in the state about our pension liability.”

Some in the community aren’t happy the problem has gotten severe enough that the partial-volunteer fire department could be in danger.

“I understand a lot of the frustration you know, I don’t like taxes, I don’t like special assessments,” Armitage adds.

But Armitage says the city needs more money or cuts are coming.

“A lot of these problems that we’re facing, it’s been building up for a long time, and now we’re to a point where it’s critical.”

The city council will meet on Monday to discuss the millage further. It’s possible it could be instituted by July and could eventually pop up on voter ballots in November.

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