Is the City of Howell asking voters for more tax money than they need? Let’s examine the facts on this moonshot request. A few years ago, the city assessed a “Rubbish Tax”, then they raised taxes an additional 1 mill for “roads”. Then they attempted, without a public vote, to raise taxes 3 mills for “Public Safety”.
Now they are asking for a 4.5 mills Headlee Override (1.5 mills more than before) to balance the books and implement infrastructure projects. Doing the math, they first wanted to raise $864,000 in taxes without a vote but now they are looking for over $1,401,143. An increase of $537,143 or 62% more than a few months ago! What’s up with that?
The city claims they are being shorted State Revenue sharing but the State has been steadily increasing revenue to cities for the last 9 years, just not enough for Howell our Council says. If State revenue sharing is the problem we need to pressure lawmakers to increase state funding, not punt the problem back to cities.
So how has the city been spending money? Well, its deep in debt with 1 out of 8 tax dollars paying over a million dollars a year for bonds. Maybe we should ask why and how the city got so deep in debt? Also, many don’t remember a few years ago the city had to buy property south of town for 2 million dollars to settle a lawsuit. It should have recently sold for over 3 million outright but instead Council struck a deal to subsidize a developer who has not paid for the land and taken it off the market for over a year. It’s the worst deal ever, we may never see this money come back in our lifetime, and we should trust this Council with 1.4 million more dollars a year for 5 years?
During a public hearing for the Public Safety millage the Mayor stated on the record (I have the recording) he did not trust the public to approve a millage that’s why they tried to implement the assessment. So instead of putting the original 3 mills increase to a vote they increased the millage amount and are asking for more money than before. Am I the only one scratching my head on this logic?
Maybe the city budget is also under stress by Council taking on debt and expenses that should be the responsibility of the DDA. If fiscal responsibly is the city’s goal, then why did they get late-in-the-season paving bids for a parking lot that went $200,000 over budget? Is this the act of fiscal responsibly with our tax dollars?
The millage override request is for 5 years. Why five? It gives the city the opportunity to create dependency on the millage, and when it comes up for renewal it overrides the Headlee limits again and resets the millage capture rate to an even higher amount. Do not be fooled with the claim the renewal would be a “scorecard” on the city’s performance. Once the tax increase trap is in effect can never go away, especially if the city takes on more debt.
And finally, we should not be bullied with the threat to take away our brush and leaf pick if the millage does not pass, the actual cost is minor in relationship to total city budget. After all, if Council can find $74,000 for a downtown street study it can find the money for the one basic service we residents enjoy with or without another tax increase.