You Ask, Patch Answers: City Manager Replies to More Millage Questions
Royal Oak's City Manager Don Johnson answers questions about the Nov. 6 public safety ballot measure.
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Public safety millage questions and answers: Questions and comments have been pouring in to Royal Oak Patch since the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously voted to start the process to put a referendum on the ballot this November asking the voters for a public safety millage of 3.975 mills over five years.
To answer readers' millage questions, Patch has ran a series of Q & As with Interim Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue. This week, City Manager Don Johnson jumps in to answer questions on the ballot proposal.
I would like to know what is driving the need for additional code enforcement personnel. If it is mainly complaints by neighbors about rental properties, then why are we not raising the cost of a rental license to cover the anticipated added expenses versus raising everyone’s taxes?
I guess that depends on what you consider “additional.” Not long ago, we had six people in code, five of whom were code enforcement officers. Today, we have two. The proposal gets us two more, or four total. Code enforcement in Royal Oak is a far bigger job than two people can perform adequately. Right now, we only respond to complaints and we are not keeping up with those. Code enforcement should be proactive with the officers actively looking for problems. That isn’t happening now.
We have a rental inspection program which is paid for by license fees. Such fees cannot legally be set higher than necessary to pay for that inspection. We cannot set the fee higher to pay for anticipated future violations.
The suggestion that code violations are just a “rental” issue is totally false. We catch most rental violations as part of the inspection process and we inspect all (registered) rentals regularly. Most complaints are about owner occupied homes.
I recently paid my July 2012 tax bill. If this tax increase passes, when will the first bill be due? In December? Will this be billed every December, thereafter? Or will the second time billed be in July 2013? This affects my mortgage payment amount, especially if I receive an additional tax bill for December 2012, and July 2013.
The first bill would be due in December and I anticipate we will keep this in December as long as we have a December tax bill. If the other taxing authorities that levy in December can ever be moved to July, we would move this to July as well and eliminate the cost of the additional billing.
Is the city going to get the increased revenue generated from the Downtown Develpent Authority (DDA) district any millage increase will result in? I believe the way the DDA works, the revenue from property taxes in the Central Business District to the general fund is capped at the level it was when the DDA was formed. If we pass a millage increase, the DDA will be getting a windfall?
That’s not quite how the DDA works. It is the taxable value of the DDA that is capped, not the revenue. The net result, however, is the DDA will capture some of the millage increase. Taxes on the original value go to the City, taxes on the increase in value are captured by the DDA.
What agreements does the city have to get some or all that increase to the city's general fund versus the DDA?
There is no agreement already in place specifically dealing with revenue generated by the proposed millage increase. We do have agreements that call for the DDA to pay $375,000 per year for police patrols, the debt service on the court building ($519,200) and the debt service on the South Lafayette Parking Structure ($496,280). These three items total almost $1.4 million. In addition, the DDA pays for many downtown services that would otherwise be a city responsibility.
Does the city have a plan, or savings, to fix our residential streets? If not, will a seperate millage be needed to fix the streets in our town? If a separate millage is needed, how much and when?
Royal Oak does not currently spend any property tax revenue or any other general revenue on streets. Street maintenance is paid from “Act 51 Revenue,” which we get from the state. The state collects it as part of vehicle registration fees and the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. It shares it with local governments on the basis of population and miles of major and local streets. We have, in eligible areas, also used some of our Community Development Block Grant money for street paving. Very little of Royal Oak qualifies for CDBG funding and that is a declining revenue anyway.
We do have a growing problem with the condition of streets in Royal Oak (and everywhere else in Michigan). The money generated from the gas tax is a declining revenue as population falls and vehicles get better fuel economy. What we receive from the state is not enough to maintain our roadways and the condition of many of our streets is evidence of this. The proposed millage does nothing to solve our street repair issues. It cannot be spent on streets.
Long term, this question will have to be addressed. The Governor has proposed changes in the gasoline tax which could provide increased local revenue. If this doesn’t happen, or if it proves inadequate, we will eventually have ask the voters whether they are willing to pay to fix our streets ourselves. This could be in the form of a road bond or a millage.