(The Center Square) – Ann Arbor voters approved a 20-year climate millage on the Nov. 8 ballot, voting 37,451 to 15,244. Critics say increasing taxes will hike the cost of living, hurt those on fixed incomes, and fund “redundant” spending.
The new 1-mill tax will raise $7 million annually to fund local clean energy, waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable food, and resilience programs and services.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor welcomed the vote, calling climate change “the defining issue of our time.”
“I am delighted and proud that Ann Arbor has passed the Community Climate Action Millage to ensure we do our part to equitably address the climate crisis,” Taylor said in a statement. “This millage will enable us to accelerate our efforts to effect real change – aggressive and sustained climate action to demonstrate what is possible when we work together to create a more just, equitable and sustainable future.”
The city aims to achieve community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030 and use 100% renewable energy to power the community.
Outgoing Ward 5 Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, an owner of the Jerusalem Gardens restaurant downtown, said Ann Arbor is already “struggling” with affordability after many recent tax increases, which hurt those living on a fixed income.
Ramlawi said the millage funding uses are “vague” and some are duplicative. For example, the millage will fund year-round composting. But city homeowners already pay two mills in city taxes for solid waste.
He said the millage funding will do good, but his concern about wasteful spending lingered. Ramlawi said city officials should spend “the people’s money as we spend our own money.”
“There’s an insatiable appetite for increased budgets, for increased spending, and not much of a desire to tighten our belts and look for wasteful spending or duplicity in what we’re doing,” Ramlawi told The Center Square in a phone interview.
The new millage will fund:
Direct rebates for home, rental, and business energy improvements, including rebates for energy waste reduction, renewable energy installations, appliance electrification, and energy storage systems.Year-round composting and recycling collection for commercial and multi-family units.Renewable energy deployments at affordable housing sites, community centers across the city, and the city’s capped landfill.Support for resilience centers, local food production, and heat and flood preparedness initiatives.Installing more streetlights, crosswalks, and protected bike lanes across the city.More electric vehicle charging infrastructure and incentives to support multi-modal transportation.
The 1-mill will cost a homeowner $125 annually for a property with an average taxable value of $125,000, which is different from the fair market value. Michigan assesses property at 50% of fair market value, and property taxes are calculated on taxable value.
New program funding will be available for expenditure starting July 1, 2023. Ann Arbor Sustainability and Innovations Director Dr. Missy Stults said the approved millage is a “monumental step” for the city.
“The passing of this millage marks a monumental step forward in our collective efforts to achieve A2ZERO and our goal of a just transition to community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030,” Stults said in a statement. “We have a lot of work to do, together, to achieve this audacious and scientifically essential goal, and the passage of this millage provides critical funding to move us that much closer to success.”