Tax Hike Election Coming to You Tuesday?

Proposals to restrict local elections to the state primary or general election stall

Most Michiganders may not realize that there will be elections on Tuesday, May 3 — next week. The Michigan Secretary of State has a list of the 81 school and 14 local government elections. If your local government or school district is on the list, you'll have to do additional research to discover what is actually being proposed. Not all the elections on the list are for questions involving tax hikes, but many are.

There have been complaints about schools and local governments putting tax hike proposals on the May election date rather than the statewide August primary or November general election ballots, which get a higher voter turnout.

But this is an improvement. Before 2003, schools and local governments had wide latitude in deciding when to hold tax hike votes, to such an extent that some were dubbed "stealth" elections.

A law enacted in that year required all elections, with a handful of exceptions, to be held on one of four days in the months of February, May, August and December. One of the days allowed in that law — the last Tuesday in February — was later removed from the list. That change left three election days for nearly all elections: the Tuesday after the first Monday in either May, August, or November.

In 2011, the state enacted another requirement affecting elections, which was that school board elections (though not millage elections) be held in November of an even-numbered year.

The Legislature has considered bills in recent years to restrict local property tax votes to either the August primary or the November general election. None of those bills have received a vote in either the Michigan House or Senate.