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Disagreement on funding veterans programs in Muskegon

Leaders in Muskegon say the county Veterans Center will continue to offer as many or more services, but there is a disagreement on how to pay for it.

Leaders in Muskegon say the county veterans center will continue to offer as many, or more services, but there is a disagreement on how to pay for it.

For 24 years the county has collected a property tax just to pay for veterans programs. But now, instead of asking voters to renew, or slightly increase that millage, they may use a law that allows assessment of property taxes for veterans programs without voter approval.

It is called Act 214. Some citizens disagree with the strategy, but commissioners say they won’t have to worry about defeat at the ballot box.

“We didn't want to take the chance of having this millage fail,” explains Board of Commissioner’s Chairman Benjamin Cross. “[We want to] Provide the same services without risking the chance of it failing.”

“We would like the voters in Muskegon County to decide how our tax dollars are spent,” argues Dave Eling, executive director of Non-profit West Michigan Veterans Inc. Eling and his non-profit group will lose their contract to operate the veterans center under the proposed new funding plan.

“They want to get rid of me,” Eling says. “I don’t work for the county.”

The commissioners have also not decided if they will ask voters to approve higher property taxes to pay for the county Veterans Treatment Court.

It helps keep veterans who commit nonviolent or drug and alcohol crimes out of jail. It is currently funded by grants. Administrators are looking for a more stable funding source that property taxes would provide.

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