New tax paves way for new senior center

Voters reject marijuana ballot issue

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 17, 2023

BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham residents approved a senior millage Nov. 7 and rejected a marijuana proposal at the polls.

Voters approved the senior millage 69.04% in favor to 30.96% against, according to the Oakland County Elections Division.

The marijuana proposal failed 26.45% in favor to 73.55% against.

Birmingham officials said they expect that Birmingham, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms and Franklin households with seniors will increase by over 50% by 2045. It is also expected that a significant percentage of residents over 65 years old will be living alone.

The approved proposal is a new, three-year, 0.33-mill levy to collect approximately $1,053,750 in revenue per year for interim improvements and a sinking fund for a senior center. A retiring bond issue will partially offset that cost, according to city officials. It is estimated that the actual millage rate will be around 0.08 mills. A mill is $1 tax per every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value. This comes out to be approximately $23 per year for the average Birmingham homeowner, according to the city.

“We are excited about the community supporting seniors and their growing population and the increased needs that come with that so this will allow us to start some very preliminary work at the Y and hire some professional services that can begin to advise us on what it might take to update the building to be better suited for seniors and community events,” NEXT Executive Director Cris Braun said.

In July, the city officially closed on the purchase of the Birmingham Family YMCA property at 400 E. Lincoln St. in Birmingham for the use of NEXT.

“This commission and previous commissions have always prioritized coming up with a plan that serves senior residents who have invested so much in our community in a way that is stable and up to date. We are thrilled about partnering with the Y to purchase that location and keep that facility as a community asset,” Mayor Therese Longe said previously.

The YMCA entered a three-year lease agreement that allows them to continue to provide services. Once that lease ends, NEXT will occupy a majority of the building.

Funds from the approved millage will go towards the city’s plans to repurpose the YMCA building.

Specifically, the millage will be used to conduct interim improvements to the building and property, and to establish a sinking fund that will set aside money to assist with the cost of permanent improvements.

“We don’t know right now what we are going to have, so we are going to study the buildings, do a cost analysis, understand what the community needs are, and then build a building around that. … We are just going to modify the building to be better suited to serve seniors and to be able to continue with the programs that NEXT has, as well as enhance our programming with things that we don’t have room to do here at Midvale,” Braun said previously.

This millage will possibly not provide complete funding for the senior center project; however, the city is anticipating the consideration of a general obligation bond issue once the millage expires.

“​​We definitely are going to do a thorough space planning and utilization review, and that will lead us down the path of what we might need to do to the structure and whether a bond issue would be required down the road,” Longe said previously.

NEXT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that currently operates out of Midvale School without a comprehensive lease, but once they move into the new building, they will have more space to provide helpful services to seniors.

Programming includes fitness, arts, travel, lifelong learning and enrichment, and support services for over 2,300 members.

The rejected marijuana proposal was initiated by city officials to maintain control over marijuana regulations in Birmingham.

The Birmingham City Commission passed a resolution to opt out of having marijuana establishments within the city’s jurisdiction. But since outside groups have been sparking ballot proposals in various cities, the city decided to put its own opt-in on the ballot to maintain control of the issue.