F2H Votes: Valerie Knol, Farmington Hills City Council

Farmington Voice sent questionnaires to five Farmington city council and four Farmington Hills city council candidates. Responses are being published in the order they were received. Read all of our election coverage here: farmingtonvoice.com/tag/elections

Valerie Knol
Valerie Knol

Valerie Knol

Age: 47

Community involvement: I was elected to Council in 2013 and served as Mayor Pro Tem in
2016. I serve as the Council Liaison to the Beautification Commission and the Historical District
Commission. Prior to my election in Farmington Hills, I served on the City Council of the City of
Farmington for eight years and served as Mayor from 2007 – 09.

As a longtime activist in the community, I have served on the board of the Farmington Players
Theatre, the American Association of University Women, the Farmington YMCA, and the
Greater Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce. I currently serve on the Oakland County
Zoological Authority.

What best qualifies you to serve on Farmington Hills city council? 

I have served on Council during some of the most challenging economic times and have a history of encouraging management efficiencies in order to control costs, limit tax increases, and maintain high quality services. While on Farmington Hill’s Council I have worked to maintain our neighborhoods and quality of life by supporting public safety and infrastructure projects. I have worked collaboratively to encourage compatible redevelopment of underutilized properties to minimize blight and increase property tax base. My diversity of experience, common sense leadership, record of cooperation and long service to our community make me qualified and capable to continue tackling these issues on city council.

Describe your vision for the future of Farmington Hills looking 10 years ahead. 

My vision for Farmington Hills includes:

  • Developing a local road funding system that is fair to the residents and allows Farmington Hills to replace many of its crumbling subdivision roads that are at the end of their life cycle.
  • A community that continues to support its police and fire departments and maintains Farmington Hill’s “Safe City” designation.
  • Maintaining a fiscally responsible budget in order to allow the city to keep its tax rate among the lowest in Oakland County cities, retain its AAA bond rating and pay down debt.
  • Compatible, quality redevelopment which improves our tax base, keeps our business community strong, and protects the character of our communities.
  • Continuing to focus on efficient, high-quality services that maintain a high quality of life.

What is the city’s most critical challenge today and how should the community address it?

Road Reconstruction Funding – The Farmington Hills City Charter currently requires the reconstruction of local subdivision roads to be funded through a Special Assessment District (SAD) with the city paying 20% of the costs and the residents in the neighborhood whose streets are being reconstructed paying 80% of the costs, typically over a period of 10 to 15 years. Farmington Hills has been using this SAD funding method since Farmington Hills became a city and the charter was approved by the voters more than 40 years ago. The SAD funding model worked well when Farmington Hills was transitioning from a rural community with many gravel roads to an urban suburb that is fully developed and has mostly paved roads. Now that many of the subdivision roads in Farmington Hills are at the end of their life cycle and need to be replaced, the SAD process has become less efficient.

This is because the 80% that the residents are required to pay based on the charter provisions, can lead to large financial assessments each year during the SAD period. Many other cities, (for example, our neighboring city of Farmington), use a different local road funding system in which the city levies a millage for local subdivision roads instead of a SAD. The millage tax payments tend to be a smaller monetary amount per year than the SAD assessments, but the millage does not end after 10 to 15 years like the SAD. There are pros and cons to each system, but the current SAD system is hindering the city’s efforts to replace crumbling roads and has become contentious with many residents.

Nevertheless, the city has an obligation to protect the safety of its residents and the maintain its roads. Since the SAD system is required by the Farmington Hills City Charter, any change would have to be voted on by the residents. I believe it is time to transition to a millage funding system as long as we can develop a process which is legal and fair to the residents who are currently paying a Special Assessment so they do not have to pay a Special Assessment and a millage at the same time. Currently, the City Council is studying how this can be accomplished.

What do/will you do on a personal level to engage residents in city government and ensure
that you’re hearing from a broad cross-section of the community? 

The Mayor has been holding town hall meetings in each quadrant of Farmington Hills twice a year. While residents can always speak in a council meeting, these town halls are more casual and it is a good opportunity for residents to come and ask questions or voice their concerns. I also always encourage residents who want to get involved in the community to join a city commission or volunteer with one of the many civic organizations. These organizations are involved in the community and often have speakers from the city in order to learn more about what is going on in their community. Additionally, I try to be involved with a variety of volunteer groups and attend different community events in order to hear from a variety of residents and get a better feel for the pulse of the community.