STEVENSVILLE — The village of Stevensville is once again looking into possibly becoming a city.
The village examined the issue in 2002-2003, but eventually dropped the matter due to several drawbacks.
Village President Steve Slavicek said residents and business people have complained recently to the Village Council about having to pay taxes to both the village and Lincoln Township. Slavicek said he wants to have a committee formed by May 1 to look into the pros and cons of becoming a city, and to make a recommendation to the council.
“It’s all about money,” he said. “If we can save our residents money, it’s worth looking into.”
People who want to serve on the committee can stop by the Village Hall or send a letter of interest to: Village of Stevensville, 5768 St. Joseph Ave., Stevensville, MI 49127. The village has 1,142 residents.
If Stevensville becomes a city, residents would no longer pay township property taxes. However, money would have to be found for Stevensville to have its own police and fire departments, or contract for those services.
Slavicek said that right now village property owners pay to the township 0.7849 mills for the general fund, 1.9992 mills for police, 1.1266 mills for library services, 0.25 mills for roads and 0.1747 for the fire capital asset fund.
He said fire protection comes out of the township’s general fund and the fire capital asset fund is for a new fire truck. Village residents receive police and library services from those other dedicated millages.
But Slavicek said village residents receive no services for the roads millage they pay to the township, which added up to $9,000 in 2018.
He said all of the angles need to be considered by the committee.
“There’s a lot more questions than we have answers for at this point,” he said.
In addition, he said even if village trustees decided that becoming a city was the best thing, it wouldn’t happen unless voters approved the idea.
City v. village
Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski was village manager when a four-member Village of Stevensville Improvement Committee was formed in 2002 to examine the issue.
When contacted by phone this week, Witkowski said almost all cities in Michigan started out as villages at one time.
“It’s kind of a progression,” he said. “The biggest reason villages become cities is to have more autonomy when it comes to elections, assessing. You are totally independent.”
Witkowski said New Buffalo is the most recent Berrien County village to become a city, with that taking place in 1965.
According to HP archives, on June 9, 2003, the committee sent a letter to then-president Michelle Getz with the recommendation that the village remain a village because:
• Providing the same level of service to residents would require at least a 1.45-mill increase in taxes.
• Village leadership needs to focus on continued growth and welfare of the community and not be distracted by an organizational change.
• There is more potential to grow in physical size as a village.
• It is important to maintain an effective, mutually beneficial working relationship with the township.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege