Farmington officials hold first millage meeting at Shiawassee Park

If the weather holds, Farmington residents will get an up-close look at the city’s newest fire truck during a September 27 informational meeting about the city’s November 6 millage request.

The 6:30 p.m. event will be held at Shiawassee Park, located on Shiawassee Street west of Power Road. Additional meetings are scheduled:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Drake Park, on Drake Road south of Grand River
  • Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Flanders Park, on Flanders Street east of Farmington Road
  • Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Chatham Hills, near the play structure on the west side of the park
  • Thursday, Oct. 11 at Farmington City Hall, 23600 Liberty Street

All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and will run for about one hour. The rain location for all meetings is City Hall.

Officials voted earlier this year to put a 3-mill request on the ballot, with at least half of the funds going toward large ticket expenditures like road improvements, water and sewer work, park and park restroom improvements, streetscapes, and large equipment purchases. The decision came after a budget forecast showed deficit spending could drain the city’s fund balance in five years.

“We have forecasts showing we’re headed in the wrong direction,” Mayor Steven Schneemann said. “We’re not headed off a cliff. We’re doing the responsible thing before it becomes a problem.”

‘We’re stuck’

Treasurer Chris Weber said the city’s overall assessed value dropped from $474 million in 2007 to $304 million in 2012, and is now at $423 million. However, because of Michigan’s Headlee amendment, which limits the amount collected from millages, and Proposal A, which limits property tax increases as property values rise, the city can’t collect on that value.

“We’re stuck,” he said.

Other factors affecting the budget include increased pension and benefit costs, unfunded state and federal mandates, and a long-term decline in state shared revenues. Earlier this month, council members learned they’ll have to cover a $400,000 bill for an Oakland County Drain Commissioner project in the area of Nine Mile and Drake Roads and may be on the hook for replacing lead and galvanized water pipes throughout the city.

The January five-year budget forecast showed an average $450,000 annual deficit happening over the next five years, putting the city on track to exhaust its fund balance by 2023.

“That assumes we don’t do anything to cut expenditures or raise revenues,” Weber said.

Cuts versus revenues

After staffing reductions, limiting compensation, and outsourcing dispatch, assessing, and information technology services since 2010, another round of cuts would mean significant changes for the community.

Weber said officials would have to eliminate entire programs – measures like closing parks and selling off the land, eliminating participation in senior and special services programs with the City of Farmington Hills, shutting off street lights in neighborhoods.

Residents who attended community forums held earlier this year supported increasing taxes over spending cuts, Schneemann said. The presentations included information about the city’s current financial position. One chart showed, in an “apples-to-apples” comparison, how Farmington property owners’ tax burdens measure up.

“There’s been a myth in this community that our taxes are higher than in other cities,” Schneemann said. “We’re not even in the upper 50 percent. Even if this 3 mills passes, we’re still in the lower 50 percent.”

City Manager David Murphy believes that forum attendees “realized this is a good community.”

“They love this community, and they want it to move forward. I think they understand the challenges.”

More detailed information about the proposal, along with information and results from the forums, can be found at farmgov.com/millage