April 30, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- Voters will be asked to approve 4.25 mills for police services, an increase of a quarter mill over what voters have approved in years past.
During a special workshop April 28, the township board approved by a 6-1 vote police millage ballot language for the August primary. Supervisor Kathy Thurman voted no.
"The board all agrees that we want to support police services and we agreed on staffing levels and we agreed that our carry forward is too low, but the major difference is the rate at which we want to build the carry forward," said Thurman Wednesday. "I believe the 4 mills based on the assessor's estimates would be sufficient."
In March, the board passed ballot language that would have asked voters to approve a levy of 4 mills for police, a request voters have passed five times during the past 40 years, and which would have collected an estimated $1,773,681 the first year if approved and levied.
However, concerns were raised that the 4 mills would not be sufficient to cover police services and build the fund balance. Currently, the board is levying 3.5286 mills for police services, due to Headlee Amendment rollbacks. The current levy, which expired in December, does not generate enough revenue to cover the township's contract with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office for 10.5 deputies and maintenance of the township substation. The township's contract with OCSO has an annual cost of $1,378,984, and is good through 2015. The contract does not cover the cost of overtime for deputies.
"I don't want to come back in three years and ask for more (mills)," said Trustee Jayson Rumball at Monday's meeting.
He explained Wednesday that the March decision to approve 4 mills was based on Thurman's figures and the board realized the ballot language and numbers should come from the township election commission.
"We realized the 4 mills weren't enough to maintain the police force at its current level," Rumball said. "(Thurman) would have levied the full 4 mills every year. Our intention is to roll it back and we will likely be under 4 mills for the next four years."
For the past few years, board members have been using cable franchise fees of approximately $70,000 annually to supplement the police fund, which they want to stop. Trustee Ron Lapp likened the use of the cable franchise fees for the police fund to "stealing from the residents."
"People don't realize the police mills (currently levied) aren't completely covering it," said Trustee Dana DePalma. "You have to ask for more. I wish I had a crystal ball so I knew what we could levy."
The amount of revenue that can be expected from property taxes is predicated on taxable values determined by the consumer price index, new construction, and sales of existing homes (which leads to uncapping— the assessed value becomes the taxable value).
Kim Feigley, township tax assessor, explained to the board on Monday that the consumer price index can be influenced by war, hurricanes, and more unforeseen events. The current forecast for CPI is 1.35 percent for 2015. She added that new homes are being built and taxable values are increasing, but homes in the township don't sell for what they do in nearby communities such as Oxford or Clarkston.
"People buy here because they want more land— that's the draw to Brandon," Feigley said. "The climb in taxable values is starting again. If the state equalized value drops, which I don't foresee, you have 11 percent to play with between the current value and the taxable value."
Thurman said she was comfortable asking for the 4 mills based on that cushion. She called the 4.25 mills "way too much of a cushion."
Using an estimate of a 2.25 percent taxable value increase per year, the 4.25 mills, if approved by voters, will garner $1,885,209 in the first year. The millage would be authorized to be levied for five years (2014 through 2018), but board members noted that the township could levy a lower rate after the first year, adjusting for only what is needed to maintain police services.
Rumball made the motion for the revised police ballot language to read, "Shall the Charter Township of Brandon be authorized to levy up to 4.25 mills for a period of five (5) years, 2014 through 2018 inclusive to finance police protection services? Approval of this proposal would permit a tax of $4.25 per $1,000.00 of taxable value on all taxable property in the township. The previious authorized police millage and police increase expired December 31, 2013. It is estimated that this proposal would result in authorization to collect approximately $1,885,209 the first year if approved and levied."
Lapp supported the motion. Prior to the roll call vote on the motion, Trustee Bill DeWitt asked if the motion was approved, if the whole board would get behind it.
"We should vote unanimously," he said, with Lapp and Rumball voicing agreement.
Lapp pointed a finger at Thurman and said, "Shame on you if this passes and you vote no."
DePalma noted that the difference between asking for 4.25 mills and 4 mills was $38 per year in taxes the first year on a home valued at $150,000.
DeWitt added that the money would come either in one year, or spread over a few years, but would give them the funds needed for police services and a carry forward.
Thurman, who did keep to her no vote, said the board agrees a $200,000 police fund balance is what they would like to see. A 4 mill levy with the 2.25 percent taxable value increase would have resulted in an estimated fund balance of $157,070.95 after a full year. The 4.25 mill levy at the same increase will result in approximately $267,964.65 for the fund balance after one year if approved by voters.
Passage of a police millage is necessary by the end of the year in order for the township to keep police services.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville