A grass-roots, citizens committee is helping educate voters in the City of Howell about the upcoming full Headlee Override that will be on the Nov. 6, 2018, general election ballot.
The “Safety. Streets. Success.” campaign by Committee for a Strong Howell includes a website that explains what the Headlee Override is, as well as answer questions voters will most likely have about the issue. The committee has also established a series of social media accounts to keep in touch with voters, announce meetings, answer questions, and share information.
The Committee for a Strong Howell’s website is at https://www.howellstrong.com/. You can check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HowellStrongCommittee/, follow the committee’s Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/StrongHowell, and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/howellstrong/.
When the Headlee Amendment passed in 1978, (and later, Proposal A), the aim was to protect Michigan homeowners from rapidly escalating property taxes. The legislation was based on the assumption of continually increasing property values; what no one could know back then was that the economic meltdown three decades later would expose its structural weakness.
Think about what happened to the housing market when the Great Recession hit: Some homeowners were plunged underwater on their mortgages; others lost the equity they had built up over the years; and too many lost their homes to foreclosure. Property values plummeted, taking the assessments on which taxes are determined with them. Additionally, the State of Michigan cut state-shared revenue to cities in its effort to balance its budget.
While the economy in general has recovered, cities took it on the chin with lower property tax revenues, and for them there will never be a complete recovery. It’s mathematically impossible because of how Headlee and Proposal A work.
To cope with the Great Recession, Howell reduced its staffing levels by 25 percent, and worked with its remaining employees to freeze wages for several years and have them contribute more to their health care plans. The city also purchased more technology to offset the loss of personnel, and began sharing services to help reduce costs.
The city also deferred investments in its infrastructure by $1 million a year.
“As city streets and infrastructure needs demand attention, the city is faced with two choices: cut more services like police protection, leaf pickup, and snow plowing; or increase revenue through a Headlee Override,” said Randall Greene, chairperson of Citizens for a Strong Howell. “Without the extra revenue, the city will never fully recover from the Great Recession.”
With the Headlee Override, 80 percent of the money raised will go directly to streets and infrastructure, with some streets needing basic maintenance while others require a complete overhaul because they are at the end of their 20-30 year life
“The Headlee Override is truly an investment in our city that will keep it a desirable, safe community in which to live,” said Kathleen Goetsch, co-chair of Citizens for a Strong Howell. “It will keep our property values rising.”
Upcoming informational meetings are scheduled for Oct. 2 and Oct. 24. The Oct. 2 meeting is set for 7-9 p.m. at LESA, 1425 W. Grand River Ave., and the Oct. 24 event will be at a venue to be announced. Updates and additional information opportunities will be announced on Committee for a Strong Howell’s Facebook page.