An end to a historic season: Benton Harbor fans show support on the road

Benton Harbor fans cheer on the Tigers as they face Zeeland West during the first half of a Division 4 district championship game Friday at Zeeland West High School. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Benton Harbor fans cheer on the Tigers as they face Zeeland West during the first half of a Division 4 district championship game Friday at Zeeland West High School. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ZEELAND — Regardless of the final score, Benton Harbor won Friday night.

The Tigers lost 62-8 in the Division 4 district finals to Zeeland West, but it was the crowd behind the visitors’ sideline that reveled together, proving they could be the loudest.

More than 300 orange- and black-clad spectators flooded the visitors’ stands, and another 100 or so stood along the track leading down to the field goal post.

The band kept the crowd warm and energetic with its frenetic drumbeat and dancing during the first half. Fans cheered and clapped for every gain as well as every penalty the Dux committed.

It was clear when the gates first opened, Tiger Pride had invaded the grounds of Zeeland Stadium.

Benton Harbor resident Jackie King has been coming to every Tigers football game since 1980.

On Friday night, she was wrapped in her orange and black shawl trying to stay warm. She and two other generations of her family attended Benton Harbor.

“This is so exciting,” King said. “It’s such a positive thing for our community. I’m so proud of what the kids have done. It gives us so much to look forward to. Things can be done. You’ve got to support the orange and black.”

With two straight winless seasons in their rearview mirror, Tigers fans say they are already looking forward to next year after finishing 6-5.

 

“Expectations are going to be high,” said Demetrius Curtis of Benton Harbor. “I hope to see them build on it. I mean, do you see how many fans are out here? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many fans at a Tigers (football) game – especially an away game.”

Curtis tries to catch at least one or two games a year, but sometimes is restricted due to work.

He also made it to the 28-7 victory over Dowagiac last week, which marked the Tigers’ first playoff win in school history.

As a 2000 graduate of Benton Harbor, Curtis said he played guard for the Tigers. Looking back on the start of the season, the former Tiger admitted he didn’t see the turnaround coming.

“No, I didn’t see this coming,” he said. “They needed a new style, a fresh start. I see pride here. Even though we didn’t win tonight, this was a milestone.”

Water under the bridge

Battle Creek Central senior Brandon Randle faced off against the Tigers earlier this year and said he never forgot the team’s focus.

“They came out really strong and surprised us actually,” Randle said of Central’s 14-9 loss to the Tigers. “We underestimated Benton Harbor. They came out and played hard from the start and got up on us.”

Randle showed up in person Friday night to cheer on a Tigers team that includes his cousin.

“I heard about their success and I’m here to support them with everything that has been going on in their city,” he said.

Stevensville resident Lew Olsen knows where Randle iss coming from. Standing on Benton Harbor’s sideline, he wore his Lakeshore Lancers hat.

While the Tigers walked away with an upset of the Lancers in the seventh game of the season, Olsen showed his support for Benton Harbor and coach Elliot Uzelac.

“I think the coach has done a marvelous job with his kids,” Olsen said. “They have bought into his program. He’s given them a sense of worth and a sense of value. They’ve responded really well, and I love that.”

Michael Frazier, who grew up in Benton Harbor and now lives in Grand Rapids, played on the Tigers’ last winning season in 1989.

Frazier said he almost didn’t come Friday, but it was his family who drew him to a game he was never able to reach in high school.

“I was excited they made the playoffs,” he said. “I see how important it is to this city. This is something to build on and I’m glad to be out here tonight.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 7, 2015)

A spin on laundry: SJHS robotics team builds T-shirt shooting washing machine

Vic Vroegop, coach of the Average Joes, a robotics team from St. Joseph High School, checks the internal controls of a Whirlpool washing machine-turned-robot that shoots T-shirts. (HP Staff)

Vic Vroegop, coach of the Average Joes, a robotics team from St. Joseph High School, checks the internal controls of a Whirlpool washing machine-turned-robot that shoots T-shirts. (HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Members of the St. Joseph High School robotics team spent their summer tinkering with a Whirlpool washing machine.

The end result is a robot that no longer washes clothes, but instead shoots them out as far as 50 yards.

It was inside the Technical Education Wing at the high school where members of the team, the Average Joes, developed the T-shirt shooting washing machine robot.

In person it appears to be a normal Whirlpool Cabrio Top Load Washer. However, “Joe Washbot 1.0” is merely the outer shell of the washer. Inside the lid is a portion of PVC piping used to store the rolled-up T-shirts that are sent flying via a connected air compressor. Around the small air tank are a series of wires and tubing that keep the robot churning. Underneath the contraption is the robot’s chassis, a metal skeleton complete with wheels that have the ability to move forward, backward and sideways.

Not only did the robot drive system and programming impress SJHS industrial tech teacher and team coach Vic Vroegop, but the fact that these students came in during the summer to continue learning STEM material surprised him.

“The kids that we have on the team enjoy robotics and the opportunities that the mentors provide for them,” Vroegop said. “This is valuable enough to come for weekly meetings and spend their time learning during summer vacation. My favorite part is watching the kids have the ‘it’s alive’ moments. Watching kids realize this odd looking line of code is going to make a robot do what they want is great to see.”

The Average Joes began the project in June and finished toward the end of August ‒ two days before the Berrien County Youth Fair, where they would use that platform for the machine’s first public demonstration, during the fair’s robotics exhibition.

Senior Patrick Warren joined the team at the beginning of last year and said he has used this experience to learn a lot of cool stuff about robots and engineering as a whole. He says the idea for the robot was odd, but it came with merit.

Warren said many people have had an unbalanced washer and have seen one dance and walk when overloaded. Initially, that was all the team was going to make the washer do, but seeing it move around didn’t seem exciting enough ‒ there needed to be more action.

“We decided to make it shoot your laundry back at you,” Warren said. “It was up in our heads, but we never really put it together until we did the 3-D modeling.”

But why tinker with a washing machine in the first place? That’s easier to explain.

“It’s two fold. Whirlpool is one of our biggest sponsors ‒ they support us financially and a lot of our mentors are from there,” Warren said. “Second, a lot of the people on our team think of Whirlpool as a place after we go to college. Whirlpool is a tech company ‒ it’s a place for a lot of engineers and marketers.”

A majority of the team’s mentors hail from Whirlpool ‒ who specialize in not only programming, but marketing as well.

Brett Oleson, who works in sales for Whirlpool and spends plenty of off time as a team mentor, said robotics teams like these are growing in popularity.

“We’re still expecting more growth on the team,” he said. “We’ve had a number of students come up to us during the fair that were interested.”

Changing gears

While at the county fair, the team used the robot to show how fun it can be. Within minutes of showing it spin, dance and shoot, Vroegop said a crowd had gathered nearby as people began jumping for T-shirts.

“We’ll have it at new student orientation and football games,” the team’s coach said. “It’s a little bit of a marketing tool. This will help kids realize that technology and engineering is a fun thing to do.”

As an incoming senior for the 2015-16 school year, Seneca Masterson said she joined this summer and has been a big part of the robot’s programming. One of her roles was programming the robot’s commands to specific buttons on an X-Box controller, which is connected to a laptop with coding.

Through this programming, operating the robot is as simple as playing a video game. The Y button opens the lid, the A button shoots the T-shirt and the analog sticks control the bot’s movement.

“Programming is fun ‒ it’s like a puzzle,” she said. “You have to put all the pieces together in order for it to work.”

Vroegop said having fun projects like this is what makes robotics a “varsity sport for the mind.”

“Very few kids become professional football players, but in schools and society we put so much emphasis on athletics,” he said. “This is practice for real life because every one of these kids is going to need a job some day. These are real-world skills on display.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 1, 2015)

Marine City residents speak out against tax increase

A resident speaks out against the special tax assessment during a Marine City Commission meeting Thursday. (Tony Wittkowski |Times Herald)

A resident speaks out against the special tax assessment during a Marine City Commission meeting Thursday. (Tony Wittkowski |Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Residents had more than a few words for Marine City Commissioners during the Thursday night meeting.

While the public hearing on an up to 5-mill tax increase through a special assessment to fund public safety was canceled, residents used public comment to get their point across.

Marine City resident Janet DeMist spoke during the 40-minute public comment session, where she asked commissioners to “stop throwing taxpayers under the bus.”

“We cannot handle tax increases,” she said. “We learned the meaning of a budget in grade school. Please review the budget and be frugal.”

The commission scheduled a special meeting at 7 p.m. May 20 for a public hearing on the special assessment that was attached to the proposed budget.

The meeting was scheduled by a vote of 5-2 with Commissioners Lisa Hendrick and Raymond Meli voting against it.

“We are asking you to invest in your city,” said Commissioner Dianne Lovett to more than 25 members in the audience. “There has been less and less coming in for the city. We have been cutting and cutting and cutting. There is no money in the budget. I personally enjoy having our own police force.”

Meli addressed the crowd after the public comments, saying he was not in favor of the special assessment because crime has gone down and felt an added police shift was not needed.

“I want a quote from the sheriff’s department on policing our area,” he said. “I don’t think the city has to pay for its own police department, let alone another shift.”

Mayor Raymond Skotarczyk said he doesn’t believe the special assessment will put anyone in the “poorhouse.”

“We are trying to keep this city moving forward. As a homeowner I don’t want increased taxes either,” Skotarczyk said. “But this is necessary. I wouldn’t do this unless I thought there was a major benefit to plug the hole in the bucket.”

Commissioner Hendrick said she was happy with the amount of people that showed up and hoped this will convince the rest of the commission to make cuts.

The special assessment had been discussed by the city commission, but at a lower rate than listed in the public hearing notice.

In early April, the commission included in its budget a 3.045 mill special assessment for public safety; a 2 percent raise for most city employees; and a 5.15 percent increase in water and sewer rates, as well as $100 a year ready-to-serve fee for water and sewer.

That $2.9 million budget is still set for a May 21 public hearing.

The 3.045 mill special assessment included the cost of an added 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift in the police department.

Some residents called for a third party to come in and take a look at the budget.

Heather Warner, a Marine City resident who started an informal petition against the special assessment, asked commissioners to cut the 2 percent raises and to not include the additional police shift.

“I’m asking you make cuts on the budget,” she said. “I attended the town hall meeting last month. I feel there were great ideas discussed. I feel we were heard but not listened to.

“Take this into consideration before casting your vote. We will take this to a legal level if the commission passes the increase.”

Residents like Robert Blanchard thanked the commissioners for their service, but felt there was more to be done within the proposed budget.

“I realize budgets are tight, but I don’t think going forward with this PA33 is the answer to the problem,” Blanchard said. “I’ve worked for three different counties and each one has had to take budget cuts.”

Police chief and acting city manager Don Tillery was not present for the meeting, as he was attending his son’s graduation.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 8, 2015)

Lawmakers look for alternatives to Proposal 1

With an overwhelming amount of voters striking down Proposal 1 Tuesday, legislators are faced with the challenge of finding another source for repairing Michigan’s roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

With an overwhelming amount of voters striking down Proposal 1 Tuesday, legislators are faced with the challenge of finding another source for repairing Michigan’s roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

After the overwhelming rejection of the Proposal 1, state lawmakers are back to the drawing board.

Had the state amendment passed, Michiganders would have not only seen an increases state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, but an increase in registration fees for vehicles and an increase in the state’s gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to about 42 cents.

More than 89 percent of St. Clair County voters rejected the tax increases.

Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, said he believes there needs to be cuts elsewhere in the state’s budget to raise the additional $1.3 billion needed to repair Michigan’s roads.

“We need to find a solution without raising taxes. It’s going to be about reprioritizing our $53 billion budget. We need to look at whether we need those programs that don’t return an investment and aren’t a priority for citizens.”

Proposal 1 was produced in late December after talks failed to generate a consensus between the House and Senate over how to raise additional taxes for roads.

Lawmakers looked at everything from raising gas taxes to massive hikes in vehicle registration fees and small-dollar revenue generators, such as slapping truckers and electric vehicle owners with additional taxes.

Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, said the starting point should be taking the sales tax that goes elsewhere and commit it to roads.

“People want to see the solution to roads to be concentrated on roads,” Lauwers said. “We had to improvise with other parties at the time. I hope everyone gets the message from the voters.”

That message, according to Lauwers, was that an increase in funding should only go toward roads.

Speaking with voters, Lauwers said they were either confused by the language, they did not want a tax increase or they felt Proposal 1 involved too many programs and funds.

Proposal 1 contained multiple triggers to increase the sales tax, fuel taxes and registration fees to boost revenue for road repairs, education, municipalities and provide a tax credit for low-income families.

Lauwers said it could take more than one attempt to get a road funding solution that voters will accept.

“If you are going to increase funding it has to be strictly for roads. It cannot include tax credits for other government budgets,” Lauwers said. “Hopefully, we can get other parties to agree and not get bogged down by special interest groups interested in roads.”

Kirk Weston, managing director for St. Clair County Road Commission, said he expected the proposal to fail because it was slated as a roads issue, but had other items that made it hard to explain to the voters.

“Hopefully when Lansing meets again, they take the time to look a little closer and understand what the real issues are,” Weston said.

Weston said the road commission will not be affected immediately, but he does foresee a problem with future roads projects.

“We are starting to see increases in prices that we haven’t seen before — especially projects that include drainage, bridge or culvert structures,” he said. “Material cost and the cost to do work are starting to climb.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley took to Facebook Wednesday to give his thoughts on the downfall of Proposal 1.

The next steps Calley has in mind for developing a plan to fix roads would be to limit the solution to transportation, lower the size of a potential increase in taxes and make it as simple as possible.

“I’ve seen a lot of interpretations regarding the outcome of Proposal 1, but with that kind of margin of loss, it is clear that multiple reasons came together to bring about the result,” he stated. “Interestingly, the resolve to find a roads solution seems stronger now than it was a year ago, which is encouraging.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 6, 2015)

City fire department to lose five spots in proposed budget

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Port Huron council members were given a budget Monday night that showcased $1 million in cuts.

The proposed 2015-16 budget includes cutting the city’s firefighting staff by more than 12 percent and billing residents $35 a year to maintain trash and recycling services.

City Manager James Freed gave the council and public an overview of the city’s $21.2 million budget with a slide show presentation.

The budget includes:

Reducing the fire department staff from 40 to 35, through early retirements. The public safety’s fire division is slated to take more than $575,000 in cuts, bringing its overall budget to about $4.7 million.

Eliminating the city manager’s assistant position, through early retirement, creating a savings of $50,000.

Adding a $35 annual fee per residence to pay for continued trash and recycling services, generating about $300,000 annually.

Without the increase in revenue, Freed said yard waste pickup and recycling would have to be cut.

The 3 mill trash tax brought in $1.6 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year. The trash collection contract cost $1.7 million. The fund has been tapping into its savings to make up the difference, but Freed said those savings will be depleted by the end of this year.

“One of the things we asked of our department heads was to find cost savings,” Freed said. “Expenditures are growing much more rapidly than our city’s revenues. Until our revenue growth catches up with us, we have to be fiscally conservative.”

The proposed budget would provide an additional $500,000 down payment toward unfunded liabilities.

The budget does not include subsidizing a deficit out of city savings. The current year’s budget included taking $340,000 from the city’s land purchase fund and $230,000 from the city’s savings to balance the budget.

The budget includes a $75,000 cut to McMorran for capital improvements, as well as cutting $25,000 in city dollars for capital improvements for the parks and recreation department.

The budget also includes capital improvements coming from funding outside of the city’s general fund revenue.

Freed said it would also use $750,000 from a $1.1 million Department of Housing and Urban Development grant toward rebuilding city parking lots; $675,000 in park and recreation projects from the county park tax, a state grant and private funding; $308,000 in improvements to the Municipal Office Center from the Land Purchase Fund, including improvements to the elevators and security equipment.

“My concern is the next 24-36 months,” Freed said. “This is to shrink the cost of government for the impending bills down the road.”

Mayor Pauline Repp said council will begin to dissect what has been proposed by city administration.

“We encourage people to come with an alternative solution that might work if there is an issue with any part of the budget presented here tonight,” Repp said. “There are still some things that we need to decide.”

Council scheduled a public hearing for May 11 at its regular meeting, followed by a budget work session at 6 p.m. May 13 in Conference Room 408 at the Municipal Office Center.

At the May 26 council meeting — which is a Tuesday, since May 25 is on Memorial Day — the budget will be brought before council for adoption with any revisions that come from the public hearing and work session.

Council member Alan Lewandowski was not present for Monday’s meeting.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 27, 2015)

Convention center hosts hundreds for ribbon cutting

Attendees sit and listen to speakers during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, April 17, 2015 at the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Attendees sit and listen to speakers during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, April 17, 2015 at the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

On time and on budget.

That was St. Clair County Administrator Bill Kauffman’s mantra during Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the Blue Water Convention Center.

“The most important thing is that it came in on budget,” he said in front of hundreds of eager listeners. “Getting this project done is big weight off our minds. There is still some work that needs to be done, but for now we can celebrate.”

With an international crossing and passing freighters outside, politicians and county employees spoke about the process that brought the center to where it’s at today.

In the largest room of the convention center, spectators sat in rows, applauding.

John Wheeler, president of Orion Real Estate Solutions and developer of the DoubleTree by Hilton Port Huron and the convention center, said the final version of the $9 million facility exceeded his expectations.

Wheeler said he chose Port Huron and St. Clair County because he noticed how much officials worked together on attracting projects. Now he can’t wait for what comes next.

“It’s a culmination of a lot of energy, a lot of partnerships and a lot of expectations turned into reality,” he said. “This place has got some magic going on. The work continues, but in a very different format.”

Large items — including a pitched tent, bounce house and trolley — where stationed in the back of the room for comparison to the height of the ceiling.

“We were just sitting around thinking about what we could do that might demonstrate the immensity of the facility,” Kauffman said. “We had heard of another SMG site where they actually brought in a Ferris wheel to demonstrate the size. We brainstormed and came up with this.”

Kauffman said when the center opens for events, the Blue Water Trolley will be bringing people to the downtown area and back to their hotels.

County board chairman Jeff Bohm reminded audience members about how the county first identified a need for a convention center in 2010.

“It wasn’t about how much business we could bring to the area, it was about how much business we were losing in the area,” he said.

Legislators including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Phil Pavlov, Rep. Paul Muxlow and Congresswoman Candice Miller made appearances and spoke at the two-hour event.

Having been involved with the project for the last few years, county commissioners and Port Huron City Council members were in attendance as well.

Mayor Pauline Repp called the completion of the convention center “the last piece of the puzzle.”

The 40,000-square-foot facility is the final piece of the private-public redevelopment along the waterfront announced four years ago.

Already completed is the renovation of the former Thomas Edison Inn into the DoubleTree, Freighter Eatery and Taproom and the addition of the Culinary Institute of Baker College south of the hotel.

“A lot of people were skeptical that this amazing development would actually take place,” Repp said. “Certainly many people were not convinced that this was the best use of taxpayer money. I believe this will be a catalyst for job creation and bring thousands of visitors to the Blue Water Area.”

Construction of the convention center was paid for by the county, city of Port Huron and Blue Water Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The convention center so far has three events booked for May, including a 1,700-person convention and two wedding receptions. SMG, the company that manages the center, said several other events are pending.

Saturday will include an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the public to come and take a self-guided tour.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 17, 2015)

Adding up Michigan’s Proposal 1: Additional costs don’t worry residents

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Ed Jefferson has done his arithmetic.

He is a Port Huron resident and a retired automotive industry worker, and he plans to vote against Proposal 1 — but not because of the $1.2 billion in new transportation taxes he would have to help pay.

“I don’t like all the add-ons,” he said. “If you want the money to take care of roads, you take care of the roads. A lot of it will be going somewhere else. I hope it doesn’t pass.”

Proposal 1, which will appear on the May 5 ballot, would:

• Increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

• Exempt motor fuels from the sales tax.

• Increase the state’s gasoline tax from 19 cents per gallon to about 42 cents.

• Increase registration fees for personal and commercial vehicles.

All those increases would add up to about $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2016 — with the transportation taxes going to roads and almost $800 million in new sales tax revenues going to schools, municipalities, tax relief for low-income families and the state’s general fund.

Those last things are what bothers Jefferson about Proposal 1.

What would it cost me?

The conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy said Proposal 1’s $2.1 billion equates with $525 more in taxes a year for each of Michigan’s 3.9 million households.

The group estimated that increasing the sales tax by 1 percent would cost a typical Michigan household $389 and the new fuel tax would cost between $88 and $136.

Based on his annual driving distance and his car’s fuel efficiency, Jefferson would pay an additional $67 a year from the fuel tax at current wholesale prices.

Jefferson said he doesn’t worry about the cost. He already pays $15 a month for pothole insurance in the event of a blown tire or a bent wheel from a pothole.

Michigan ranks first for annual individual repair costs to registered drivers at $357 per driver, according to a report from TRIP, a national transportation research group partially funded by the construction industry.

Michigan drivers spend more than $84 per year more in repair costs than the average state. Michigan motorists spend as much as $132 per year more in repair costs than neighboring Indiana.

Port Huron resident Kristina Bailey said her family have had to spend $300 this past year on repairs she blames on bad roads.

Bailey is a stay-at-home mom and says she is in favor of the tax increase.

“I would still want to know where all the money would end up going first, but I would vote yes on Proposal 1,” she said. “If any of it fixes our roads, I’m for it.”

Marysville resident Lucie DeLine says she practically lives out of her car.

Based on her annual driving distance and gas efficiency, it would cost DeLine an extra $72 each year to drive her 2014 Ford Escape.

“I go on long weekend trips with my husband all across Michigan,” DeLine said. “I don’t really know where I stand with Proposal 1.”

Michigan drivers are currently charged an annual vehicle registration fee based on the manufacturer’s list price. They receive a 10 percent reduction discount in the next three years of ownership.

Proposal 1 would eliminate those discounts moving forward.

Buying a 2016 Ford Focus listed at $18,000 would cost $83 to register in year one, $74 in year two and $67 in year three.

If Proposal 1 passes, the Ford Focus owner would pay $83 every year for the life of the vehicle.

Paying $187 in registration fees for his 2014 Lincoln MKZ, Jefferson would pay an additional $58 under Proposal 1 for his registration.

How much a resident will pay in taxes depends on the price of fuel, said Bill Anderson, executive officer to the Southeast Michigan Council of Government.

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Anderson said the additional costs can only be considered to be estimates because it’s hard to predict what the retail price of fuel and the inflation rate will do in the future.

If gas is selling at $2.39 per gallon — the projected national average — the day before the tax is implemented, it will cost $2.49 the day after.

As gasoline prices increase, the added tax would decrease because while the 42 cents per gallon fuel tax would remain constant, sales taxes would not increase because they would no longer be levied on motor fuels.

If gas prices at the pump exceed $4.20 per gallon, taxpayers would actually pay lower taxes if Proposal 1 passes compared to present levies.

“Depending on the price of gas, you will be paying somewhere between a nickel and dime more per gallon than you were before,” Anderson said. “If gasoline prices are down around $2 a gallon it will be closer to a dime increase. If prices are closer to $3, then you will be talking only a nickel increase at the pump.”

Proposal 1 would also introduce new surcharges on electric and hybrid vehicles that use less gas and pay fewer fuel taxes. Most electric vehicle owners would be charged $75 a year, while hybrid owners would be billed $25.

If passed, Proposal 1 would put more money in the pockets of low-income families by restoring the earned income tax credit.

According to the Citizens Research Council, a married couple with three children and an annual income of $45,000 would qualify for a $94 credit. If Proposal 1 passes, the family would qualify for a $312 credit.

“The earned-income tax credit was added to Prop 1 to minimize the impact on lower-income families,” Anderson said. “(The EITC) was reduced back in 2011, but the agreement was to return the income tax credit to its original 20 percent.”

Prop 1’s fiscal impact

If the proposal was passed, tax increases would go into effect on Oct. 1 — which is the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.

SEMCOG projections for Proposal 1’s fiscal impact over the next three years fluctuates.

Total revenue is expected to reach $2.1 billion in the 2015-16 fiscal year, but is expected to decline to $1.8 billion in 2016-17. Revenues would then increase to $1.9 billion in 2017-18.

Other state funds will see increases, including the Recreation Improvement Account, the Comprehensive Transportation Fund, the School Aid Fund and the state’s general fund.

The state’s general fund increase of $463.1 million is set for 2016 and decreases to about $171 million in following years.

Michigan’s proposed sales tax rate of 7 percent would be the same as neighboring Indiana and five other states. Only California’s 7.5 percent rate would be higher.

The last sales tax increase was passed in 1994 when it increased from 4 to 6 percent.

Supporters and naysayers

Some opponents of Proposal 1 have expressed concern issue because of its complexity.

An affirmative vote would enact 10 legislative bills into law.

Anderson said the 10 bills were needed because some of the proposed changes have to be implemented using different mechanism and because some horse-trading was needed to garner the bipartisan support to get Proposal 1 on the ballot. Both houses needed a two-thirds vote to even put it in front of voters.

Similar measures for tax increases to fund road repairs were floated before state legislators in 2012, but failed to receive support.

Leon Drolet, chairman of the anti-tax Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said the proposal is too friendly for road construction companies because it provides a bigger pool of road projects without any substantial reforms.

He also said his group opposes the issue because not all the money would go toward fixing roads.

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

Vehicles pass by large potholes Thursday on M-46 in Port Sanilac. Proposal 1, on the May 5 election ballot, would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, change how gas is taxed and provide $1.2 billion in funding to roads. (Jeffrey Smith | Times Herald)

“It would go toward local governments, schools, expanding the social welfare programs. A lot of voters are skeptical because this is not a straight-up gas proposal. This is a gas tax for a Christmas wish list that the government would like and not just roads.”

Roger Martin, spokesman for the ballot committee called “Safe Roads Yes,” said it is still a good policy solution for a number of reasons including its cost.

“We have not raised our sales tax in 21 years,” he said. “It’s four cents more for a gallon of gas and a penny more for sales tax. Are safer roads in Michigan worth an extra five cents?”

Anderson said Proposal 1 is considered the only plausible option for funding Michigan’s roads.

“It’s no secret Michigan roads have gone from bad to worse,” he said. “It is certainly an imperfect solution. But it’s the best chance we have to fix the roads.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski. The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 11, 2015)