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No exemption from DDA capture for NOTA, attorney says

February 12, 2014 - Should a millage to support the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) be approved by voters in August, there's no legal way to exempt a portion of it from being captured to benefit the downtown areas in Oxford and Lake Orion.

That was the opinion of attorney Bob Davis, who represents Oxford Village and Addison Township.

"(An exemption) is only allowed in very defined and very limited circumstances," wrote Davis in his Feb. 4 opinion letter.

He explained that Michigan's Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Act only permits the governing body of a taxing jurisdiction to have its millages exempted if it passes a resolution to that effect within 60 days after a public hearing to either create a new DDA or change the district boundaries of an existing one.

"If the DDA Act does not expressly provide another opportunity to 'opt out' – then it does not exist," Davis wrote. "This applies here. Here, the DDA Act does not state that the millage for a transportation authority can 'opt out' from capture after the DDA has been established."

NOTA is working to place a five-year, 0.25-mill property tax to help support its operations on the August ballot.

The proposed millage would allow NOTA to replace the $425,000 in federal grant funding it will lose after this year, implement an ongoing vehicle replacement program and keep 13 vehicles on the road Monday through Friday.

NOTA provides low-cost, publicly-subsidized transportation to senior citizens, disabled individuals and low-income folks living in Oxford, Addison and Orion townships along with the villages of Oxford, Leonard and Lake Orion.

Because it has no taxing powers of its own, NOTA has requested the Oxford, Addison and Orion township boards each place the millage proposal on their respective ballots.

Since the villages of Oxford and Lake Orion both have DDAs, a portion of the revenue generated by a NOTA millage, should voters approve it, would be captured by them to support downtown-related activities, projects and staff.

There is no DDA in either Addison Township or the Village of Leonard.

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who serves on the NOTA board and chairs the Oxford DDA board, was disappointed to hear of Davis' opinion.

"I can only speak as one (DDA) board member, but I would have had no problem voting to give NOTA an exemption because I know what their needs are and how much good they do for our seniors and others," he said. "It's too bad we can't do that for them, but the law is the law."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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