Millage vote slated for November

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — The city is placing a millage issue on the Nov. 8 ballot to overcome an estimated $1.47 to $1.85 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Councilors voted 4-2 Monday to approve drafting ballot language for a supplemental millage. The proposed millage would run for three years for a maximum levy of 3 mills. If approved, the first levy would be in December 2011. A mill is defined as tax per dollar of assessed value of property.

The measure was one of the suggestions in a report by the 11-member Citizens Advisory Committee on Financial Affairs presented to the council June 30. The owner of a house worth $100,000 would pay $50 per mill, or $150 per year. A total of $1.74 million per year could be generated by the millage, City Administrator Todd Drysdale said, but if the city makes no additional spending cuts, the revenue from the levy would be entirely consumed each year.

Some councilors voiced concerns that the millage would not cover the shortfall and the economic situation would not improve in three years, forcing councilors to seek a renewal.

“I’ve talked to some of the residents in the community and they don’t want to see a renewal in three years,” Councilman Leonard Sabuda said. “They feel, ‘Yes, we’ll help now, we’ll get us back on the board, but if you’re coming back with a renewal, we’re not gonna be for it.’”

Councilman James DeSana said he was reluctant to support the millage without seeing a forecast of expenses for the next three years.

“That’s one of the reasons I have a difficult time supporting putting this millage on the ballot, because we really haven’t done our due diligence to figure out how much money we really need to maintain the level of service we have,” he said.

Mayor Joseph Peterson said council members should have been preparing for this budget the day after the Oct. 1 deadline for last year’s budget despite the fact that two major causes of the shortfall – the reduction of state revenue sharing and a decrease in taxable values in property estimated to cost the city $620,000 in 2012 – were unknown at the time.

“Due diligence started Oct. 2,” Peterson said. “As officials, it’s our job, when we approve one budget, to start looking at that second budget, what’s coming ahead.”

Peterson also said the city will use other methods, such as attrition and implementing more of the advisory committee’s suggestions, to combat the shortfall and will not rely solely on the proposed millage.

One resident voiced his support of the millage.

“I think we do have a high quality of life in this city,” resident Brian Kelly said. “We do have a unique city, and if the choice is Draconian cuts to service and increasing the millage, I think it’s a no-brainer. Paying the price of a large pizza each month is worth it.”

A public hearing on the millage is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. The council will vote on the millage rate following the hearing.