Wyandotte voters may face millage proposal

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — The current budget proposal projects a $1.35 million deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year, but the mayor and council continued to weigh options that avoid layoffs.

City Administrator Todd Drysdale said to eliminate the projected 2016-17 budget shortfall, the city would need a 20 percent increase in its tax base at the current 12 mills, or consider increasing the rate by 3 mills.

“You have to develop at a pretty significant level to eliminate the projected shortfall,” He said. “If you look at the property value drop, you are not to where you were, but it’s manageable (with the millage).”

Mayor Joseph Peterson said the budget proposal was designed to provide services residents expect without any layoffs, and the council still has the opportunity to cut staff or eliminate items from the proposal to balance the budget.

“By no means is this budget set in stone,” Peterson said. “We brought to (the council) what we think the city can handle, what it needs without taking away services. If anything else has to be taken away (from the budget), it’s up to the council members to bring that up because four votes can change anything.”

The reality of the situation Wyandotte faces is if the 1.75 mills is not renewed, the city will be looking at seven-digit shortfalls within the next four years, Drysdale said, but if the city could renew the millage, it could slash that number by about $600,000 to $700,000. He said the ideal situation would be to get to 15 mills levied total, which translates to the city renewing the current 1.75 mills and adding an additional 1.25-mill levy.

The 1.75-mill increase was voted on and passed in the November 2011 election and expired Sept. 30, 2015. The original proposal to council was for 3 mills, but was declared invalid, because the Attorney General’s Office said it believed a three-fifths vote required the mayor’s vote. The mayor does not cast a vote unless the council is deadlocked and his vote is necessary to break a 3-3 tie.

The Citizens for Responsible Government in Wyandotte had concerns the 1.75 mills would not be enough to sustain the city’s expenditures and Drysdale confirmed that notion during discussions in 2011 and the two recent budget hearings.

“What he said would happen, happened,” Councilman Lawrence Stec said. “Let’s get it right this time and move forward.”

The wording for the ballot would have to be certified by Aug. 27 to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. No plans have been made, yet, to meet that deadline. Drysdale said there are be two more elections — August and November 2014 — before the current millage expires.

The city’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and the city plans to use money from the sale of Wyandotte Hospital to the Henry Ford Health System to balance the budget, which Drysdale said is the first time since 2003 that money has been touched.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)