1. What will the ballot proposal look like?
WYANDOTTE CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT FOR OPERATING MILLAGE
Shall Section 5 of Chapter XIII of the City Charter of the City of Wyandotte be amended to require the renewal of the levy of an ad valorem tax in an amount of three tenths of one percent of the assessed value (3 mills) for a period of ten (10) years, from 2024 through 2033, on all real and personal property subject to taxation in the city as renewal of this millage for the purpose of providing additional funds for general operating purpose? It is estimated that 3.0 mills would raise approximately $1,781,000 when first levied in 2024.
2. Haven’t the voters recently approved charter amendments that increased the operating millage?
In recent years, the voters have approved charter amendments three (3) times to approve the supplemental operating millage. In November of 2011, voters approved a 1.75 mill increase to the operating millage authorized in the City Charter. At that time, the City was facing a projected annual deficit of $1.4 million. The increase was limited to a term of three (3) years and the additional mills were levied in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
After the expiration of this original charter amendment, the projected annual deficit remained at $1.4 million which necessitated the extension of the supplemental operating millage. In May of 2014, voters approved a 3.00 mill increase to the operating millage authorized in the City Charter for a period of five (5) years (2014-2018). Facing the same projected annual operating budget of $1.4 million (without the supplemental operating millage), the City again placed a charter amendment on the ballot requesting the approval of a supplemental operating millage. In May of 2019, voters again approved a 3.00 mill increase to the operating millage authorized in the City Charter for a period of five (5) years (2019-2023). After 2023 and into the future, this additional funding does not exist while the annual operating deficit is projected to be $1.6 million.
3. How did the City Leaders conclude that a millage increase was the best option?
A recommendation for a 3-mill increase came from members of a Citizen Advisory Committee appointed by the mayor that met for several months and issued a report dated June 30, 2011. The City Council authorized a ballot question for the November, 2011, election asking for an increase of 1.75 mills for operating purposes. The additional 1.75-mills were expected to raise $1,015,000 annually with an expiration date of three (3) years. But, property values continued their dramatic decline which mitigated the effect of the additional mills that were approved. In reaction to the continued loss of revenue, and increases in most operating expenditures, the Mayor and City Council reduced the operating budget by almost $2 million dollars annually during the original three (3) year period covered by the supplemental operating millage. Since then, City leaders have determined that additional reductions in operating expenditures would severely impact the level of service currently being received by the citizens. Thus, the request for additional operating mills has been was approved for the ballot since that time.
4. What does this mean to my pocketbook?
All residents will see no increase in their tax bill other than what would normally occur due to the normal assessment process or actions associated by other taxing entities outside of the City’s control. The total millage being levied by the City will be exactly the same. The ballot question essentially asks for a continuation of the tax that you are currently paying. The continued payment of the supplemental operating millage will ensure that services are maintained at the same level as they are now and into the future.
5. What has the City done in response to the decline in revenue?
Since 2011, the Mayor and City Council has reduced the General Fund budget by $1.89 million. These reductions came in the form of the elimination of thirteen (13) full-time employees, the implementation of a 20% employee contribution to healthcare premiums, reductions in holiday pay, elimination of longevity pay, eliminations of various part-time employees and contractual agreements, increased user fees, and consolidation of services with the Department of Municipal Services and with several neighboring cities through the Downriver Centralized Dispatch, Downriver Animal Control and the Downriver Consolidated Assessing. Over the past ten (10) years, additional budget cuts have been implemented including the elimination of full-time employees (from 174 to 125), sharing of employees with the Department of Municipal Services, closure of recreation facilities, and the elimination of defined benefit retirement and health care plans for newly hired employees.
6. What will happen if the ballot question is not passed?
Unless the millage is approved, Wyandotte will be required to implement a deficit reduction plan reducing current levels of City services. These reductions may impact the current service levels from Police & Fire, DPS, and Recreation, Leisure, and Culture.
7. What will the money be used for?
The revenue collected will be used to cover City operating costs, including police and fire, public services, and recreation and culture services. It does not represent additional revenue but instead will essentially replace the revenue currently being received from the 3.00-mill operating millage that is set to expire in 2023.
8. Why is the City asking for this increase?
The City has not fully recovered from the drastic loss of tax revenue resulting from the loss of taxable value since the City’s peak value in 2006. In fact, the current taxable value is still approximately eight percent (8.0%) less in 2022 than in 2006. In spite of sound financial management, the City of Wyandotte has experienced an ongoing decrease or lack of increase in virtually all other revenue categories as well. Rising costs of goods and services, coupled with reductions in state-shared revenue, and the aforementioned loss of property tax revenues has led to the need for additional funds to maintain basic City services.
Other factors include drastic increases in the actuarially determined annual contribution to the defined benefit retirement system ($1.64 million annually since 2006), decreases in revenue from fines and forfeitures from the 27th District Court, and continued increases in health insurance contributions from the General Fund for retirees ($900,000 annually since 2006). Even though this supplemental operating millage is expected to raise $1.78 million annually, the increases in expenditures and the fact that tax revenue has yet to reach 2006 levels equates to less operating revenue than we had seventeen (18) years ago.
9. What will the Millage Proposal cost each property owner?
Although there may be a slight increase in the amount levied for the supplemental operating millage (from the Headlee rolled-back 2.8932 to newly approved 3.00 mills), the total taxes levied by the City will be the same as the prior year. This will be accomplished by reducing the millage being levied for the Southgate/Wyandotte Relief Drainage District (Drain #5). The approval of this ballot question authorizing the continuation of the supplemental operating millage will replace the prior approved supplemental operating millage that was approved in 2019 and is set to expire in 2023.