AP charter amendment up for vote

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – The state of the city’s general fund may be in the hands of the residents.

Councilors Tuesday voted 5-2 to put a 2-year, 4 mill general fund charter amendment proposal on the November ballot. The measure, proposed by Councilman Bob Keenan replaced Mayor William Matakas’ original proposal for Headlee Amendment overrides for solid waste, the general fund, and the $6 million deficit. The amendment, if passed, is expected to bring in $2.7 to $3 million a year.

“Once you roll back Headlee, it can never go back,” Keenan said. “I certainly like something that has a sunset on it.”

The measure passed with the required super majority of five council members for charter amendments after an original proposal for a one-year millage failed.

Councilman Dennis Hayes said he supported a one-year millage as a multiple-year millage may be used against the city in police and fire collective bargaining when those contracts open in 2013.

“We don’t want to be left with a pot of gold for police and fire to rake off into their next contract,” Hayes said. “I don’t want to see us shoot our feet off by creating a surplus of funds that can be used to perpetuate the problem we’re in right now.”

Keenan disagreed, saying even if the amendment passes, the city would still be $1.1 million short of closing its current year $4 million deficit without touching the other $2 million it fell short last fiscal year.

With a recent court ruling that the city owes Ford Motor Co. $500,000 it overpaid in income tax and a state ruling that the city may not collect $150,000 in taxes on a wind tunnel the company built in the city, the deficit is expected to rise even more, he said.

Councilman Angelo DeGiulio said the residents, by voting down several millages in the past few years, have already spoken.

“Like the great philosopher Judge Judy said, ‘Let’s put on our listening ears’ and listen to thcitizens of Allen Park,” he said. “They turned down millage after millage. They turned us down three times.”

Keenan said that with “emergency financial manager act” Michigan Public Act 4 in flux until voters decide on it in November and debates at the state level about whether its precursor, Public Act 78, which was repealed when Public Act 4 was instituted, can still be enforced, the city’s future is unclear.

“We have serious questions about whether an emergency manager is even going to be available to us and we have to continue to operate the city,” Keenan said. “We can’t just sit here and throw in the towel waiting for what the governor’s gonna do.”