Your Voice: Millage puts Farmington on a stronger foundation

TO THE EDITOR:

I’m writing to inform your readers why I intend to vote “Yes” on the upcoming millage proposal on the November 6 ballot.

For 10 years now, Farmington has fought mightily to contain the negative consequences of the Great Recession. This “once in a century” economic event, coupled with a flawed funding model for local governments perpetuated by the State of Michigan, resulted in drastic actions by our City.

While property values have risen 39% since the recession low point in 2012, property tax growth has not kept pace, rising only 13% in the same time period. This is due in large part to Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment, which limit the growth of property taxes to only the rate of inflation (regardless of property value growth). Additionally, the state legislature continues to use its authority to defer shared revenue from the Michigan Sales Tax earmarked for municipalities. This deferred revenue totals $8.1 BILLION statewide. Farmington’s share of this deferred state revenue has contributed to the year-over-year budget deficit we continue to accept.

The good news for taxpayers has been lower taxes since 2007. The average resident in Farmington paid $548 LESS in taxes in 2017 than they did in 2007. One resident who attended the recent millage town halls totaled up his tax bills and said he’s paid thousands less in taxes over the last 10 years.

The bad news is Farmington has had to defer maintenance on our buildings, roads, and water infrastructure. We’ve had to delay or cancel transformational projects that would help us realize our vision for Farmington. We’ve had to say “no” to various grants or other outside funding opportunities because we cannot bring matching funds to enable us to receive those monies. We’ve had to limit pay increases for our talented and committed city employees. The list goes on.

Earlier this spring, the City hosted community meetings to go through a lot of financial data and ask residents for their views on how best to improve our financial situation. One of the most striking statements I heard at those meetings was from a resident who said “No one is coming to save us. If we want to do more, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.” I’ve become convinced this is exactly the case.

If we want to put Farmington on a stronger financial foundation and help ourselves to realize our vision for Farmington, we have to pull ourselves up by the boot straps and do what is necessary to fix our revenue problem.

If the current millage proposal passes, the average Farmington taxpayer will pay an additional $225/year (or $18.75/month). This is less than half of the tax savings I cited earlier, and it will not only help close our budget deficit, but the proposal states that AT LEAST half of the new revenue MUST be spent on capital improvement projects. Examples of these projects include streets/sidewalks, water infrastructure, parks and playground equipment, updated/upgraded vehicles for public safety, and other big-ticket items in our capital improvement plan (available for review at: http://ci.farmington.mi.us/CityServices/Forms-and-Permits/Human-Resources/Capital-Improvement-Plan-2019-2024-Draft-2-1518.aspx).

Anyone seeking more information about the millage proposal should visit www.farmgov.com/millage, or contact City Hall.

I’m urging my neighbors to support the millage proposal on the ballot. I believe it is our best chance to set us on a path toward better financial stability and growth for our city. I’m willing to pay my share, and I’m looking forward to all we will accomplish together.

Joe LaRussa
Farmington