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Kalamazoo County voters consider a veteran’s millage in the next election

The sign outside the Kalamazoo Health and Community Services on Alcott Street with the building in the background on a damp October day is home to the Veterans Service Office.
Leona Larson
The Veterans Service Office is located in the Kalamazoo Health & Community Services building on Alcott Street.

Kalamazoo County will expand veterans’ services if voters approve a new millage on Nov. 7.

A group called YES for Kalamazoo Veterans is campaigning for the tax. The veteran’s millage will fund Kalamazoo’s Veterans Service Office.

Co-chair Michael Fry said demand for services has increased since the pandemic. But the Veterans Service Office budget has not. Right now, it’s running on COVID-19 relief funds it qualified for last year.

“The ARPA funds — the COVID money — that's temporary. It's a band-aid to the greater problem, which is a greater demand in our community from our local veterans and their families for these benefits and services.”

Fry said the proposal has support even among some tax skeptics. It has been endorsed by both major parties in Kalamazoo.

“Point one zero mills - $10 a year for the average homeowner - that's something that's not going to break the bank, it's not going to put anyone on the street," Fry said. The estimate is based on a home worth $200,000.

"We can do that to ensure that our local veterans have the resources that they need to be able to live good lives here in our community," Fry added.

Similar taxes have received strong voter support in other parts of Michigan. Kent County voters renewed a veterans’ millage in 2022. And 81% of voters in Calhoun County voted for a 10-year renewal last year.

Aaron Edlefson is with Calhoun County Veteran Affairs. He says since 2012, the millage has allowed the county to enhance state and local benefits while increasing emergency relief.

“Mortgage and rent are probably our two most common requests,” Edlefson said.

“But we also do a lot of utilities assistance. We do furnaces, hot water heaters, we do vehicle repairs. It's pretty wide open what we can help with as long as that we're able to verify that emergent need.”

Edlefson also said that services used to be limited to only wartime vets.

“Without the millage I'm not sure if we would have the funding to open it up to peacetime veterans,” Edelson said.

If approved by Kalamazoo County voters on Nov. 7, the millage is expected to raise more than $1 million annually for the Veterans Services Office.

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.