Candidates and taxes frame Southgate ballot

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE – At least one new council member will be sworn in to the Southgate city panel after the general election, a ballot with no challengers to the top administrative posts but which includes a 2-mill levy renewal for street repairs.

Mayor Joseph G. Kuspa, a former Southgate Community Schools Board of Education trustee first elected Mayor in 2009 when he defeated Dennis Davis, is running unopposed for re-election. Also running unopposed are City Clerk Thomas Alexander, and James E. Dallos for treasurer; incumbent Treasurer Sheryl Denman is not seeking re-election.

For Kuspa and those on council, the challenge after the 2011 is the same as it has been in recent years, similar to the issues facing other Downriver communities.

“Maintaining solvency is the issue,” Kuspa said. “The last couple of years have been a real challenge. The key component is trying to find a way to do as much as we’re doing with less.”

While the candidates reflect a diverse background both on and off council, Kuspa said the millage renewal is the key item on the ballot. Anticipating a light, off-year turnout, Kuspa said the renewal of 2 mills for street repairs is critical for more than just the dollar value it raises.

“It’s not only the local tax dollars that go to it,” Kuspa said. “When we use these funds we can attract additional matching grant dollars.”

Kuspa said that over the past two years an estimated $1.2 million worth of improvements have been seen from the city’s ability to match funds.

Voters will be asked to authorize the renewal of a 2-mill levy for construction, reconstruction, repairing and otherwise improving city streets for an additional five years.

Beginning Dec. 1 the tax would be levied at 1.9334 mills and generate $1,544,229 in its first year.

The millage, which levies one dollar for every thousand dollars of taxable property value, would cost the owner a home with a $100,000 taxable value just under $85 a year. In 2009, millage funds allowed the city’s Department of Public Services to install new storm lines on Superior between Allen and Reeck, pave sections of roads and improve underground storage capabilities.

As for candidates, all seven Council terms expire this year, and six of the current council are looking to retain their positions. Councilwoman Carol Batko, who received the second-most votes in 2009 under Council President Phillip Rauch, is not running for re-election.

Rauch is joined on the ballot by council members Jan Ferencz, a former city employee first elected to council in 2005; Patricia Ganzberger, seeking a fourth (and final under term limits) term of service; Karen George, who previously served on council from 1983 to 1999; Christopher Rollet, also seeking a fourth term; and Dale Zamecki, a councilman of nearly 20 years’ service.

Challengers seeking a council seat are Ernest F. Abercrombie, a local businessman who campaigned for Mayor in 2009, attorney Bill Colovos, Southgate Community Schools Board President Edward G. Gawlik, Jr. and automotive sales account manager Marcine Lemerand.

(James Mitchell can be reached at