Lowell city leaders running out of options to fix roads

Posted at 3:06 PM, Nov 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-06 15:06:19-05

LOWELL, Mich. — After voters shut down a ballot proposal on Tuesday to increase income tax to fund road repairs, city leaders have a tough choice to make.

The proposed 1% income tax increase for residents and .5% increase for nonresidents for 15 years was estimated to generate the $1 million per year it will take to fix the city’s roads, according to City Manager Mike Burns.

On Tuesday, the proposal failed 61% to 39%.

Burns, who previously told FOX 17 he is no fan of taxes, said he is disappointed but not surprised with how residents voted.

“I think people are, they’re frustrated because of the things that are going on in Washington and Lansing and I think they equate that to here,” Burns said.

Burns said the longer the roads in Lowell go without repairs, the more expensive it will be for the city in the long run. Nearly all of Lowell’s roads are considered “fair or poor” under the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating scale, according to Burns.

“I mean there’s a couple of things they can do,” Burns said. “They can do nothing and we’ll have about, eventually we’ll have about $300,000 a year for street improvements. I can give them all these different scenarios of where they want to cut in the budget. None of them are palatable.”

An option that was considered prior to the ballot proposal was cutting Lowell’s police department, an option Burns wanted to avoid. Now, considering election results, it may be inevitable.

“I’m coming up with a number of different budget scenarios and one of them right now is to consider eliminating 24/7 police coverage and take some money and put to streets,” Burns said. “I’m not saying the council’s gonna do any of that but I’m working on right now, many different scenarios, none of them I really recommend but I’m gonna put everything on the table.”

Burns said people will get the government they want to pay for and defends the city’s fiscal responsibility.

“I know people think, people make allegations, I’ve seen it, that we’re not managing our budget properly and that’s false,” Burns said. “We’re living within our means, which is why streets aren’t being fixed but we’ll do the best with what we have and we’ll figure something out.”