Millage for Veterans Affairs Department to appear on ballot

ESCANABA — The Delta County Board of Commissioners has approved placing a millage on the November ballot that would support the creation of a Delta County Department of Veterans Affairs and the hire of a second veterans service officer.

“I am here today advocating for our county veterans with the best option that I believe will make the most impact on their lives and the county as a whole,” Delta County Veterans Service Officer Dave Dziewior told the county commission Tuesday.

Dziewior’s proposal asks residents to support levying one-tenth-of-a-mill (10 cents per $1,000 of taxable value) to fund the county’s veterans relief fund and provide veterans services through the county Veterans Affairs Office, which would be created as a result of the millage.

The office would include a second accredited veterans service officer, and a veterans board for program decision making. While the office’s budget would be approved by the county, similar to other county departments, the veterans board would allow the office to make programming and other veterans support decisions based on needs identified by the department and the people it serves.

“Having the right staff of two full-time accredited VSOs would allow the office to help our veterans in a more timely manner with better services, increased outreach to the public, and ultimately, improve the quality of life for our county veterans and the veterans service office employees,” said Dziewior.

The tenth-of-a-mill will raise an estimated $130,000 for the department, annually. There was some discussion by the commission as to whether or not the millage would be sufficient, should be increased, or if the county should absorb the cost of funding a veterans service office without raising resident’s taxes.

Commissioner Steve Viau, specifically, was interested in whether or not the county could fund the department itself, citing potential tax increases in his district. However, he was told by County Administrator Ashleigh Young, County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki, and other commissioners that the county’s budget could not handle the cuts from other departments necessary to fund the office.

“When I came in to be a commissioner my thoughts were I was going to cut, and I was going to cut unneeded positions, I was going to fix — try and do something with salaries,” said Commissioner Bob Petersen. “And I found out quickly there is no positions to cut, there is no salaries to cut, and there is no money to do anything about it at this time in the county coffers, and I think that the millage is is the best way to go about it.”

The millage is lower than the two-tenths-of-a-mill levied in neighboring Schoolcraft County. Schoolcraft County employs four veterans service officers and has significantly fewer veterans, but property values are also lower in Schoolcraft County, meaning less money would be collected if the two counties levied the same tax rate.

Dziewior said his proposal was designed to ensure that the office could be funded and self-sustaining while also getting support from residents, particularly those that may not be veterans themselves.

“If Dave is confident this one-tenth-of-a-mill is going to provide everything he needs, we should go with it,” said Commissioner John Malnar.

The commission voted unanimously to support placing the tenth-of-a-mill request on the November ballot with two caveats: the millage will be levied for ten years and it will be effective immediately upon its passing to ensure it can be collected as soon as December.


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