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Where is Accounting for the Millions Generated from Public Safety Millage?

You ask, Patch answers.

Voters passed a 5-year levy in 2012. Credit: Judy Davids
Voters passed a 5-year levy in 2012. Credit: Judy Davids

"You Ask, Patch Answers" is where we strive to find answers to all your questions—big, small and in-between—about the town we live and work in.

Whether it’s something you’ve always wondered about, some information you just can’t put your hands on or a sudden curiosity, we want to hear it.

Send your queries to judy.davids@patch.com or leave them in the comments section below, and I will do my best to dig up an answer for you. You also can call me at 248-231-4667.

Patch reader Bill writes: "I have a burning question. Where is the accounting for the millions of dollars that went into the general fund for public safety after the public safety millage was passed?"

To answer Bill's question, Patch asked City Manager Don Johnson for a response. Here is what he said:

Go to http://www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us/portal/webfm_send/2854. That link will take you to the 2012-13 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report on the city web site.  The public safety fund is starts on page 39 of the document (which is page 49 of the .pdf file).

The public safety fund was created following the 2012 election.  It is what is called a "special revenue fund."  Special revenue funds are used to account for activities that have a restricted revenue source. "Restricted" means it can only be used for specific purposes. The public safety tax levy can only be used for public safety expenditures. We also use special revenue funds to account for the library, solid waste, community development block grant, major streets, local streets and several other activities that have a specific restricted revenue source. 

All money from the public safety tax levy and all revenue from public safety activities are accounted for in this fund now  as are all police, fire and emergency medical services expenditures. In 2012-13, this fund received $7,172,424 from the public safety tax levy, $2,639,640 of various other revenue and we transferred $16,223,710 to it from the general fund. That transfer represented all but $300,591 of the general operating tax levy.  
Bill Shaw February 03, 2014 at 01:51 PM
Sorry for the delay as so much has happened in Royal Oak and here in Georgia. As always, I've a hard time following the City Managers financial logic. This dates back to then City Manager Hoover and then Finance Director Johnson made headlines across the Detroit Metro area, predicting that a $6.4 million deficit would cripple the city unless the voters raised taxes. The Mayor and commissioners strongly backed the millage. Needless to say, the millage failed almost 2-1. What happened next was one of the biggest surprises of the administration and elected officials. The deficit virtually disappeared. Being a man of great perseverance the now City Manager Johnson pursued the millage with the support of elected officials, a strong citizen group, and city bargaining units. This time around the well orchestrated movement with unheard of "public forums" blazing the way. In commission letter #276-12 the City Manager states "It makes no operational difference whether we establish a public safety levy, or an increase to the general operating levy. We already spend far more than we collect in property taxes on public safety. The 2012 -2013 recommended budget calls for a general operating levy of $15.2 million. Police, fire and EMS expenditures are greater than $23 million. Essentially, our entire existing general operating levy is already a public safety levy that is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of public safety. Even with the addition of the recommended addition of the recommended levy to the existing general operating levy (3.975 + 7.3947 = 11.3697 mills), property taxes alone will not be enough to cover the cost of police, fire and EMS services." "It is recommended that this be a five year levy. I want to be very clear that I do not see this as a problem that can be fixed with a limited term millage. When it expires, we will almost certainly seek to have it renewed. However, track record with solid waste with has shown that voters respond well to reviewing limited term taxes for defined purposes." Royal Oak, prepare for alot of dedicated millages. Judy Davids, thank you for allowing me to answer this reply!

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