Mayor, city attorney discuss tax rates, civil service system

By DANIEL HERATY
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – The city is asking residents to decide on a series of millage rate increases and the future of the Civil Service system Nov. 8.

During a candidates forum sponsored by the League Of Women Voters Dearborn – Dearborn Heights Oct. 4, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr., Citizens Research Council Director of Local Affairs Eric Lupher and City Attorney Debra Walling discussed the proposals and what their passage would mean to the city.

Proposal 1 would allow the city to raise its general operating tax rate 3.5 mills for up to five years to help eliminate a $20 million budget deficit. O’Reilly said the millage increase would be similar to a Save our Services millage passed in 1986.

“We were in double-digit inflation,” he said. “The city managed to get through that period without a loss of services and came out of it quickly.”

The millage increase would bring the current rate up to a charter maximum of 18 mills and would generate an additional $12.25 million in revenue. O’Reilly said the increase would not be extended beyond the five-year period.

“The intention is that the city will be growing and the millage will not be needed,” he said. “The goal will be after the five years to align ourselves to live within the budget.”

The second millage, called Proposal 2, would increase the tax rate a further one mill for up to 10 years and would keep the city’s library fund, which is part of the general fund balance, separate from the general fund.

“The intent is to make the library the priority it should be,” O’Reilly said. “It doesn’t fully fund the library, but it puts it in a position where it doesn’t have to compete for money with other departments.”

O’Reilly said if the millage passes, more jobs would not necessarily come with it.

“Both the public and the private sector are using technology to get a greater level of service at a lesser cost,” he said. “We’re not out to reduce jobs, but to enhance services.”

The third proposal would eliminate the city’s Civil Service system, put in place in the 1930s to handle employment issues such as promotions and employee evaluations. The issue of eliminating the system came up in 2008, when residents elected a charter commission to explore eliminating the system, but it was deemed too drastic at the time.

Lupher said without the Civil Service system, the ability to bargain is lost. If the measure is passed, the system would be merged with the Human Resources Commission, which would oversee the employment issues for city employees.

“I encourage (residents) to do your homework,” he said.

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at dheraty@bewickpublications.com.)

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