Birmingham seeks new parks bond

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 8, 2020

 Improvements at Adams Park, just outside of the Roeper School, on Adams Road, would be among the first projects if voters approve a parks and  recreation bond in November.

Improvements at Adams Park, just outside of the Roeper School, on Adams Road, would be among the first projects if voters approve a parks and recreation bond in November.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

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BIRMINGHAM — The decisions that voters will make on the upcoming November ballot are anything but fun and games.

Well, one of the proposals might fall into that category.

The city of Birmingham will ask voters to consider a parks and recreation bond Nov. 4 that would provide funding to continue the city’s investment in parks and recreation facilities.

If voters approve the measure, the City Commission would have permission to move forward with improvements at several Birmingham parks and playgrounds, the Birmingham Ice Arena, Springdale Golf Course, portions of the Rouge River trail system and additional amenities, including, potentially, a pickleball court and a splash pad. Projects would be selected and developed from the parks and recreation master plan.

The whole commission wasn’t on board to put the proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot, though. Commissioners Mark Nickita, Stuart Sherman and Rackeline Hoff all voted against putting the parks and recreation bond proposal in the next election, citing a lack of time to adequately inform the public on plans and garner input on the projects.

Nickita and Sherman could not be reached for comment about the vote before press time.

“Our parks and recreation facilities are an important asset in Birmingham, and as I expressed publicly at the commission meeting, I don’t think a parks bond proposal is a good decision at this time,” Hoff said in an email. “The commission did not have adequate background information nor time to discuss thoroughly and identify specific needs. We did not get enough public input nor hear from the Parks and Rec Board.”

Hoff added that she’s further concerned about the bond’s fate in this next election as the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department will also seek a renewal and increase of its millage.

For the Birmingham bond, the city would seek to borrow a sum not to exceed $11.25 million. That total would be split into two series: The first would be issued in 2021 in the amount of $4.75 million, and the second in 2024 in the amount of $6.5 million. To do that, the proposed millage would levy an estimated 0.0485 mills in 2021, about $12.13 for a home with an assessed property taxable value of around $250,000, and then that would increase to a yearly estimated average of 0.2064 mills, which would cost about $51.60 annually for that same homeowner. The bond would be levied for a period of 21 years.

Birmingham voters last approved a parks improvement bond nearly 20 years ago, which is set to expire, and what’s left over from existing bonds for funding sewer and parks projects will be fully retired in 2024.

So, what will that look like on a tax bill?

Grab a calculator.

“The new bond millage rate is proposed to start at approximately 0.0485 mills and slowly increase over the next nine years to approximately 0.2888 mills and then slowly decrease over the remaining years. The 0.2064 mills is the estimated average over the 21 years. The increase in the new bond millage rate will coincide with a decrease in the existing bond millage rate, resulting in a lower overall debt millage,” said Birmingham Communications Director Marianne Gamboa.

Since the first issuance of the bond wouldn’t come until next year, the Parks and Recreation Board explained there would be plenty of time to carefully go over the existing master plan, which was created to span 2018-2022. Among the earliest projects proposed in that objective would be improvements at Adams Park, a corner feature at Booth Park, and improvements to playground equipment and the River Rouge Trail corridor.

“Birmingham parks and recreation facilities are in high demand, and it’s clear that residents value and appreciate these assets more than ever,” Heather Carmona, the chair of the Parks and Recreation Board, said in an email. “The bond opportunity balances the investment in both near and long-term projects, and we hope to have active engagement and participation to ensure they address the needs of all residents.”

If the tax is approved, work could begin on some projects as early as the spring of 2021, like the plans for Adams Park, Booth Park and an estimated $3.1 million renovation of the ice arena that would include a locker room remodel and expansion, with the addition of a female and home team locker room, along with a new observation area, meeting space, new concession upgrades and more.

A new pickleball court could come with the first series of funds, too, as well as trail improvements to the city’s portion of the Rouge River Trail.

Other projects would wait until the second series of the bond were delivered in 2024. A large portion of that installment would be focused on converting Birmingham’s playscapes into inclusive playgrounds. After that, a splash pad could be added, and drainage improvements at Poppleton Park are planned, as well as improved irrigation at Springdale Golf Course and more improvements to Kenning Park.

“Birmingham is fortunate to have 26 parks covering more than 230 acres, various recreational facilities and 2 miles of trails along the Rouge River,” Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said in a press release. “These invaluable assets are part of the city’s infrastructure. Over time, there is a need to reinvest in these facilities, and this bond would afford us the opportunity to reinvest now.”

For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about the bond proposal, visit bhamgov.org/parksbond.


On the Nov. 3 ballot

Parks and Recreation Bond Proposal
Shall the City of Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan, borrow the principal sum of not to exceed Eleven Million Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($11,250,000), and issue its unlimited tax general obligation bonds in one or more series, payable over a period not to exceed twenty-one (21) years from the date of issuance, to be used by the City for the purpose of paying all or part of the cost of acquiring, constructing, furnishing, equipping and renovating parks and recreation improvements, including parks, playgrounds and trail system improvements and renovations to the Birmingham Sports Ice Arena, including all appurtenances and attachments? The estimated millage to be levied in 2021 is 0.0485 mills ($0.05 per $1,000 of taxable value) and the estimated simple average annual millage rate required to retire the bonds is 0.2064 mills ($0.21 per $1,000 of taxable value).

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