August 06, 2014 - Does Addison Township wish to continue being part of the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA)?
That's what Addison Supervisor Bruce Pearson wants to find out in light of his community's rejection of the NOTA millage in Aug. 5 primary election.
To accomplish this, Pearson is proposing to place the same millage request before Addison voters again in November as a sort of referendum on the township's future involvement in NOTA. Simply put –- does Addison want to stay in or opt out?
Pearson, who chairs the NOTA board, said he's normally not the type of person who believes in "going right back at them again" if the voters fail a millage proposal.
"But there's a different set of circumstances here," he explained. "Two other townships passed this. (Addison voters need to be asked) are you sure this is what you want?"
NOTA's request for a new five-year, 0.25-mill tax failed 557 to 531 in Addison, but was approved in Oxford Township (2,132 to 1,830) and Orion Township (2,712 to 2,637).
The NOTA board will address the situation and Pearson's proposal at a special 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 meeting at the agency's office, which is located at 467 E. Jackson St. in Lake Orion.
"We'll discuss our options then," Pearson said. "This has been a three-community entity since it began (in 2001). Now that the two biggest entities voted 'yes,' Addison township needs to make their decision."
NOTA provides low-cost, publicly-subsidized transportation for senior citizens (age 60 and older), permanently or temporarily disabled individuals and low-income folks living in the three townships and their respective villages.
The agency's new tax is meant to make up for the loss of $425,000 in federal and state funding next year, implement an on-going vehicle replacement program and keep 13 vehicles on the road Monday through Friday.
"(Addison residents) know the federal funding is stopping and they know the other two communities have stepped up to the plate," Pearson said. "If they don't think NOTA's important enough for our seniors and our disabled people, then I'll abide by that (decision). But they have to understand that's what this vote is all about."
Depending on the outcome of NOTA's Friday meeting, a special meeting of the Addison Township Board may be convened on Monday, Aug. 11.
Pearson believes "a lot of people" in Addison voted against the NOTA millage for two reasons.
The first is there were four tax proposals on Addison's Aug. 5 ballot – two renewals for police and fire, plus two increases for the Addison library and NOTA.
In a historically anti-tax community like Addison, Pearson said that wasn't a good idea and he tried to discourage the library from seeking an increase.
Pearson also believes Addison voters rejected the NOTA millage because they honestly believed it would be turned down in Oxford and Orion.
Given that didn't happen, he believes Addison voters should be given another opportunity to either approve the millage, which means continuing to be a financially-contributing member of NOTA, or reject it, which could mean severing ties with the agency and receiving no more service.
" If (Addison residents) want us to opt out, then they need to understand the consequences," Pearson said.
Those consequences being that Addison's senior citizens, disabled individuals and low-income residents would no longer have access to low-cost public transportation that comes right to their doorstep.
"This is where the rubber meets the road and if (Addison residents) want us to opt out of NOTA, a 'no' vote will do that," Pearson said.
Addison makes up only 5 percent of NOTA's ridership. Oxford provides 49 percent, while Orion makes up 46 percent. Last year, NOTA gave 37,427 rides.
If the NOTA millage were to fail a second time in Addison, Pearson said he wouldn't fight the decision.
"I will go by what the voters say. I won't go against their wishes," he said. "If the voters understand that NOTA is going forward without us and we don't want to be part of it, then I'll go by that."
"This is a whole different situation now," Pearson added. "NOTA is going forward without (Addison) and if we want to jump ship now and be out of it after we've put all this sweat equity into creating NOTA, then I'll abide by that. But I just want people to understand the consequences."
As a result of the election, NOTA will begin, with the December 2014 tax collection, receiving $172,000 in property tax revenue from Oxford taxpayers and $336,000 from Orion taxpayers.
NOTA will not receive the $70,000 in tax revenue the new millage would have generated in Addison had it passed there.
Pearson is opposed to the idea of simply taking $70,000 from the township's general fund and paying NOTA with existing monies.
"I think that would be a kick in the teeth to the taxpayers," he said. "I think they'd say, 'Well, you just did exactly what we told you not to do.'"
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.