2016-10-05 / Wixom Millage 2016

Wixom millage debate: point

Does Wixom really need a millage renewal?

In 2012 Wixom taxpayers approved a four-year 3.5 millage request. That millage generated $2.35 million Wixom resident Jane Kleban.Wixom resident Jane Kleban.a year for a total of $9.4 million over four years.

The millage was positioned as a temporary "make whole" proposition in order to provide essential police, fire, DPW and other emergency services to residents and businesses of Wixom. Many people felt that there was no choice but to vote for that millage.

On the November ballot, the city is requesting that the millage be renewed for another four years. 

As a concerned citizen,  I ask you to read the following and see if you believe a renewal of the millage for the City of Wixom is really necessary.

Over the last several months, I've reviewed the city budget, attended council meetings, talked to the financial director and other city department heads and council members to get a good perspective on how the city spends taxpayer dollars. Of course, the majority of the budget is spent on wages and fringe benefits for 47 employees, contracted services, legacy costs and routine city services, but more than $2.5 million is being spent on one-of-a-kind items. They include:

  • $600,000 - Ladder truck
  • $837,000 - DPW equipment (including dump trucks, front end loader, bucket truck, Toolcat, truck chassis, wing plow)
  • $272,000 - Six police vehicles and vehicle equipment
  • $230,000 - Ballroom and Senior Center refurbishments and furniture
  • $225,000 - Railway hiking path
  • $96,000 - Fountain repairs
  • $100,000 - City Center parking lot repairs
  • $35,000 - Tennis courts
  • $90,000 - Telephone system      

The informational literature that the city distributed also mentions that an ambulance was acquired (estimated at $125,000-150,000.) This list is not all-inclusive. It includes a sampling of the types of items that will not need to be replaced for another 5-15 years, thus resulting in $2.5 million that is not needed from a millage renewal.

The millage has also resulted in a $4.81 million contribution to the budget stabilization fund, also referred to as the emergency or rainy day fund. Considering the 2016-17 city budget is $10,533,527, does it make sense that the rainy day fund be nearly half as much? (Most cities have only a 15-20 percent contingency fund.) If the millage renewal is approved, at the same pace, the emergency fund could grow to over $9 million - almost equal to the entire city budget. There is also $7.2 million in the retiree insurance fund. 

In addition to the general operating millage, the city also receives $790,000 from the road millage, and $185,000 from the Safety Path Millage. The DPW director has also secured a $1.2 million state grant for the Maple Road repaving project, and another $900,000 for the upcoming West Road Project. Wixom also receives $695,000 from the state for maintenance and salaries for major roads and $300,000 for local roads.   

Wixom is fortunate to have added 150 new businesses to the tax base in the last three years. Hopefully the additional revenue from these new businesses will ensure the continued employment of the three police officers that were added since the last millage, raising the total police force to 23 of the city's 47 full-time employees.

For example, the mayor stated at the recent open house meeting that a businessman has offered a "seven figure" amount to improve Beck Road, and another businessman has agreed to pay the city $450,000 (along with a $300,000 maintenance fee) over the next ten years to have his company's name replace Wixom's on the city water tower. 

I know that friends and neighbors say they want to keep the same services they've been accustomed to and they feel threatened when the city says police, fire, EMS, DPW, and parks and recreation services will be curtailed or discontinued if the millage renewal is not passed. 

As you can see,  I've done some exhaustive homework. I'm happy, yet somewhat surprised, that my vote for the original millage allowed for so many extra (and sometimes non-essential) improvements to the city, way beyond simply making the city "whole" again. However things are different now. I want to be sure fellow voters have another perspective on how our city spends our valuable tax dollars. 

Looking at all the revenue sources and savings I've listed above, there appears to be more than enough money to operate the city for a few more years without asking the voters to renew another "make whole" millage. Remember, more than $7 million of the $9.4 millage increase was for one-time purchases and rainy day funds. Perhaps you'd rather keep the $1,400 you'd be spending on the millage renewal over the next four years in your own pocket (based on a taxpayer's home with a taxable value of $100,000 and a value of $200,000, $350/year.) Postpone the millage request indefinitely. Don't let vague threats of a negative impact on critical services affect your decision.

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