Farmington Hills officials mull parks and rec millage options

Chances are, Farmington Hills residents will see millage requests on this year’s August primary and November general election ballots.

Officials on Monday talked about asking voters for a simple renewal of the city’s parks and recreation millage, overwhelmingly approved in 2009, or increasing it to slightly under 1 mill. On an average Farmington Hills home, the increase would raise the parks and recreation tax from $49 per year to about $90.

The city could also ask voters to increase the .5 mill levy to 1 mill, which would require splitting the renewal and the increase into two ballot questions. That worried city manager Dave Boyer. 

Boyer said voters might approve the increase but not the original millage. City attorney Steve Joppich said making the increase dependent on approving the original is not typically done, but the law allows for it.

“I am concerned that two questions will confuse people, and they’ll be upset,” Boyer said.

Complicating matters is a road funding ballot question, expected in November. Last year, the state attorney general’s office denied ballot proposal language for a 2.5 mill levy that would raise about $7.5 million annually for road repairs.

“I think putting (a parks and recreation increase) on the ballot would jeopardize that,” council member Valerie Knol said. She suggested a five-year renewal, then coming back to voters after the road millage is done and people have been using the new community center.

Council member Richard Lerner pointed out that residents have always supported parks and recreation ballot issues. He said that he is still paying less in property taxes than he was in 2008, and his taxes would remain below that level with a millage increase.

“I think this can pass in August,” he said. “Could we make it work in five years? Sure, but it’ll put a strain on everything else.”

Council member Samantha Steckloff said the higher property tax bill would seem substantial to residents in more recently purchased homes. The parks and recreation millage plus the road levy would amount to a “huge increase.”

“People are hurting,” she said. “Most people are not through the recession.”

Boyer recommended the simple 10-year renewal, which he said would “allow us to run our programs and do the things we need to do.”

Council members took no official action; this issue will come up for discussion on a future agenda.

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