Council and voters both face tax increase questions

Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – The City Council and taxpayers will have to decide separately whether to raise taxes to maintain the current level of protective and public services and balance the city’s budget.

Monday night’s three-hour council town hall meeting, which originally sought to gauge citizen support for a 5 mill city property tax increase ballot proposal, ended up shifting part of the tax increase responsibility to the council.

Members must approve a 1.6 mill increase, the maximum allowed by the Headlee Amendment, before it can put the additional 3.4 millage proposal on the ballot for the city voters to decide. The amendment, approved by voters in 1978, prevents state taxes from increasing at a faster rate than personal income and stipulates that voters must approve a tax increase that goes beyond that amount.

A meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday to vote on the 1.6 mills. If approved, the city then would be allowed to override Headlee and hold a special election May 4 to let voters decide whether to approve the additional 3.4 mills needed to avoid police, fire, and public works employees layoffs and to balance the budget.

The 3.4 mills would be levied for three years starting July 1. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of taxable property value. If approved the new millage would raise about $1.2 million in the first year.

Voting in favor of the millage proposal were Mayor Tim Durand and council members Lynn Blanchette, Betty Priskorn, Andrew Swift, Elmer Trombley and James Trombley. Councilman Thomas Coffey was excused from the meeting.

The city’s current financial woes have been brought about by multiple factors. The economic downturn, which has decreased the state’s revenue, in turn has curtailed the amount of revenue sharing that flows back to cities.

Riverview’s industrial tax base has decreased markedly as well, as the longtime Taminco chemical facility no longer will provide tax revenue after this year. And as in cities throughout the country, decreased housing values have decreased property tax revenues.

Residents, firefighters, police officers and Department of Public Works employees have offered numerous addition cost-cutting ideas to the council.

Finance Director Douglas Drysdale said the 1.6 mill would raise about $525,000, not enough to over the estimated $1.6 million deficit. The 3.4 mills would bring revenue up to the level needed to maintain current police, fire and DPW services.