TO THE EDITOR:
This November, voters in Farmington Hills have an opportunity to cast their votes for what might be the most important issue in the future direction of our community since its founding.
Simply, do you as residents want to continue to pay for local (subdivision) roads by Special Assessment Districts (SADs) or do you want to change the City Charter and establish a millage to pay for these roads? In making your decision, being fully knowledgeable about this ballot question is crucial. Unfortunately, State law limits the ballot question to 100 words. As a result, while the information is there, the ballot question contains only the basic information. It is our hope that this message will provide both better understanding of the ballot proposal and answers to questions that you may still have.
The issue is that 58% of our local roads are rated as “poor” and getting worse. This is unacceptable. When roads need to be rehabilitated, the current Charter SAD process imposes an assessment on each of the owners living on the road. This requires owners to pay a proportional share of the improvement cost. The Charter currently limits the City to paying no more than 20% of the cost, meaning residents are responsible for paying 80% or more. While the SAD process has always been difficult and divisive, now that costs range between $10,000 to $20,000 per home or more, many residents have urged City Council to find a more workable alternative.
Your City Council listened and unanimously agreed that we MUST put the question on the ballot. City Council cannot change the Charter on its own. The law requires a vote of the people to make the Charter change.
The ballot proposal asks voters if they wish to approve a change in the Charter that will enable the City to transition away from SADs to fund local road improvements and establish a local road millage of up to 2.75 mills ($2.75 per $1,000 taxable value). If approved, the average homeowner in Farmington Hills would pay $247.50 per year in property taxes. This will be a dedicated millage, and can only be used for paving, rehabilitating, and repairing the public local roads. We have also built into the Charter change a mechanism for those currently paying SADs to prevent a double financial impact by zeroing out the balance owed on SADs.
One additional note on finances that a number of residents have commented on is that SADs are not tax deductible; but if the Charter amendment is approved, the local road millage will be a property tax and as such, in most cases, should be deductible (you should consult your tax professional.) The exact wording of the ballot question, a calculator to determine the exact amount for your home, a list of frequently asked questions, maps of the road conditions, and much more are available on the City website at http://www.fhgov.com/Government/Current-ProgramsInitiatives/2018-Local-Road-Ballot-Proposal.aspx. Also, members of Council and City staff are willing to meet with homeowners’ groups, clubs, or any other groups that would like to learn more before voting.
Remember, what is on your ballot is a yes or no question (on the back, last question). “Yes” is a vote to amend the City Charter to transition from SADs to this dedicated millage for paving local roads. “No” is a vote to continue with the current SAD system. The opportunity to participate in making this historic decision in our community is in your hands. (Note – if you voted as an absent voter but change your mind, it might not be too late – you can contact the City Clerk’s office, in person, and you may have an opportunity to spoil the original ballot and revisit this question.)
As both residents and City leaders, we are providing you the opportunity to change the Charter and transition to a local road millage on November 6. Earlier this year, Money Magazine rated Farmington Hills “The Best City to Live in Michigan.” Having a community plan to improve and maintain our local roads is an important part of what makes this a great place to live. This is a community decision, even if you don’t live on a local road, you are still impacted by the quality of the roads in our City overall.
If you have additional questions, contact us at 248-871-2500.
Ken Massey, Mayor
Richard Lerner, Mayor Pro Tem
Michael Bridges, Councilmember
Randy Bruce, Councilmember
Valerie Knol, Councilmember
Theresa Rich, Councilmember
Samantha Steckloff, Councilmember