Warren to seek renewal of public safety, road millages

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 28, 2021


WARREN — This summer, the taxpayers of Warren will be asked to approve the extension of separate millages dedicated to supplemental public safety funding and local street repairs for another five years.

Resolutions authorizing a pair of ballot proposals, now set to appear before voters at a special election on Aug. 3, were approved unanimously by the Warren City Council on April 13 with limited discussion.

Warren’s supplemental police and fire millage was originally approved in 2012 as a 4.9 mill tax levy to augment a 20-year millage for police, fire and emergency medical services, according to background material submitted to the council by Warren’s Chief Assistant City Attorney Mary Michaels. A landslide 78.7% of Warren voters approved a five-year renewal of the levy in 2016. The resolution, now approved by the council, would extend the millage for another five years, through July 2026, at an initial rolled-back rate under the Headlee Amendment of 4.7483 mills, an amount that would decline each year.

A five-year renewal of a 2.1 mill levy for local road and street repairs is also being sought. According to the submitted material, the “ballot question includes public access and parking areas, since park parking lots need repair.” The original levy was approved in 2011 and extended with the approval of 75% of voters in 2016. A renewal of up to 2.0347 mills will be sought under the Headlee Amendment rollback.

When calculating property taxes, a mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

“I think it’s extremely important to support the millage for police and fire, and also the road millage. We’ve made great strides in both,” Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said on April 22. “Our police and fire departments are number one in the state, and I think we’re doing a great job with roads. Those are absolutely, fundamentally important.”

Fouts said Warren was on track to bolster the ranks of both the police and fire departments, left depleted, he said, by hiring complications related to COVID-19. He said the city would also be making major capital investments for vehicles and lifesaving equipment.

City Councilman Garry Watts stressed his continued support for public safety, but said it would be his intent to push for a continued effort by the administration to keep the police and fire departments at full strength.

“I will support this, but we’re, I hope I can speak for all of the council, we’re going to hold their feet to the grindstone to fill these positions or they’re going to be held accountable,” Watts said.

Watts also questioned whether the city was spending all of the money it brings in annually through the road millage to fix local streets, or whether some of it was being banked in the city’s rainy day fund.

“We spend every bit of what we get in road funds,” Warren City Engineer James Van Havermaat told council members. “We spend the full amount. In general, we’re probably looking for additional money from the general fund to make up for excess.”

City Council Secretary Mindy Moore said without a city election on the calendar this year, they had the option of holding a special election in August or November.

“Based on experience, from the August primary and the November general election last year, the COVID spike was in the fall, around the general election, and the summer was much better. It just makes sense to have it then,” Moore said.