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St. Clair Shores

February 20, 2013

Police, fire millage up for renewal

By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer

A three-year renewal of the police and fire millage will come before voters this August, according to City Council.

A 2-mill levy to pay for the Police and Fire departments — which would guarantee no fewer than 50 personnel in the Fire Department and no fewer than 90 personnel in the Police Department — will be brought before voters for a fourth renewal, as long as the language is approved by the Michigan Attorney General, City Attorney Robert Ihrie said.

He explained that a change to the Home Rule Cities Act of 2011 now states that cities cannot adopt a charter that includes minimum staffing. But because St. Clair Shores is not adopting a charter, just amending the current charter, he believes the minimum staffing requirements could still pass muster.

“I think there is at least a reasonable possibility that because the governor would prefer to see minimum staffing requirements disappear in city charters, that the attorney general may not approve our language,” he said.

That decision would not be known for about a month. But, he said, even with that decision, a 5-out-of-7-member vote of City Council can override the governor and put the matter on the ballot anyway.

City Councilwoman Candice Rusie said she didn’t know why they were placing such an important matter before so few voters as might be seen in an August primary election. The only other issue possibly on that ballot would be a primary election for City Council seats, if enough candidates file to make a primary necessary.

Rusie pointed out that it would cost $65,000 just to place the issue on the August ballot by itself.

“You could be obligating us to have an election in August when, otherwise, we wouldn’t have to have one,” she said.

Mayor Kip Walby said that City Council would have time to move the issue at the May 20 meeting if a City Council primary election is not needed. Then, he said, the millage could be placed on the November general election ballot.

City Clerk Mary Kotowski said ballot language would have to be in her office by May 28.

A motion by Councilman Peter Rubino to place the matter on the Aug. 6, 2013, ballot passed 6-1, with Rusie opposed.

The last time the three-year, 2-mill levy was before voters was in Nov. 2010, when Proposal 2 passed, guaranteeing staffing minimums in both departments.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at kdemske@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1041.