Berkley holds town hall meeting on three ballot proposals

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 5, 2018

 City Manager Matt Baumgarten speaks before residents and city officials March 1 at the Community Center regarding the city’s three November ballot proposals.

City Manager Matt Baumgarten speaks before residents and city officials March 1 at the Community Center regarding the city’s three November ballot proposals.

Photo by Mike Koury

BERKLEY — Berkley officials held a town hall meeting recently to discuss further the three proposals that will be on the ballot in November.

Held Thursday, March 1, at the Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Ave., City Manager Matt Baumgarten expanded on the details pertaining to the costs of the three proposals, which cover a new Community Center, renovating City Hall and the historic Fire Hall, and infrastructure improvements.

Previously, the city released figures that said a new Community Center is expected to cost around $15.25 million financed through a bond, City Hall renovations at $4.5 million would be financed through a bond, and infrastructure improvements would be financed through a millage that would tax 2 mills for 10 years, which would bring in around $1.2 million per year.

Baumgarten said that with the 2 mills over 10 years for infrastructure, there would be 2 mills the first year, but the Headlee Amendment rollback would start to bring that down. He also said the bond for the Community Center would require 1.734 mills for 20 years, and the City Hall renovation bond would require 0.516 mill for 20 years to pay both of them off.

“The funding mechanisms are different from a city perspective, for sure, but the residents will alternately be asked to pay a millage on the bond debt to pay it back,” he said. “In essence, the voter is asking for ... two different types of millages to be assessed on their property values, but it’s all a millage to them.”

According to Baumgarten’s presentation, the expected annual costs for the three proposals are $150 for infrastructure, $130 for the Community Center and $38.70 for the City Hall for a homeowner whose home has a taxable value of $75,000.

On the topic of infrastructure, Baumgarten said the entire country saw unprecedented growth after World War II, but over the last 10 years, all that infrastructure hit the end of its useful life. He referred to it as a “crisis point.”

“When you talk about municipal infrastructure, we’re really going to focus in on, as much as possible, our roads, our water and sewer system,” he said. “As I watch the conversation evolve on some of the social media aspects, there was some question on what exactly, when we talk about infrastructure funding, where will that go, how will that be used, what exactly does that definition apply to.”

Baumgarten, in discussing the 2 mills the city is asking of residents, said he’s taking the buildings aspect of infrastructure out of the equation and keeping the funding specific to improvements in items that are at or below grade. This means the roads — approximately 50 miles in Berkley — and anything below it.

“We need to set the city on a sustainable path for being able to address infrastructure,” he said. “What we’re asking for in November, at least from a municipal infrastructure point, is not a fix. We’re not asking for 10 years’ worth of funding and then, good news, everything’s done and we don’t have to worry about this again. Infrastructure is a continual and ever-present struggle, and it’s something that’s going to be an ongoing need for the rest of our future.”

Resident Lowell Vick, who attended the town hall, said he’s researched the Community Center bond to the point that he feels familiar with it, but he wanted to learn more about the infrastructure millage.

“The infrastructure, I was not sure what they exactly were referring to as far as the bond covering or the mills, and that helped tonight to hear about that,” he said. “City Hall, I’m not clear on what exactly is going on there. I’ve not researched anything about it as much as the other two.”

Vick said he feels a new Community Center is a needed addition for the city, and he has liked the elements that have been included in the drawings and plans so far.

“The costs is (something) that has a lot of value for what we’re getting in return for that,” he said. “The infrastructure, obviously, we got to take care of our roads and sewers is another whole issue, but the roads, definitely, we need to keep those up over the years.

“City Hall, I’m not as familiar with that part, but I do know it’s dated-looking at least and out of functionality. I’m not aware of what’s going to be changed, but I think I would support all three measures,” he said.

The next informational meeting will be on the renovations at City Hall and the historic Fire Hall, and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Berkley City Hall, 3338 Coolidge Highway.