Farmington Hills voters choose incumbents at the polls

School millage passes

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published November 15, 2017

File photo

FARMINGTON  HILLS — Voters in Farmington Hills went to the polls Nov. 7 to vote to select their candidates.

City Council incumbents Valerie Knol, Samantha Steckloff and Michael Bridges retained their seats. Mayor Ken Massey, who ran unopposed, also retained his position.

Unofficial results from the Oakland County Elections Division show that Massey received 97.79 percent, or 9,396 votes; there were 212 unassigned write-in votes.

Knol earned 7,595 votes, or 28.02 percent; Bridges followed closely with 7,055 votes, or 26.03 percent. Steckloff earned 7,041 votes, or 25.98 percent. 

Bridges, 60, was elected to City Council in August 2008, November 2009 and again in November 2013, according to his website. Steckloff, 33, was initially elected to City Council in November 2013. Knol, 47, was elected to City Council in 2013 and served as mayor pro tem in 2016, according to the city’s website.

Council members serve staggered four-year terms, and the mayor serves a two-year term, which is limited by the city charter to two terms, according to the website. The mayor pro tem, who serves as mayor in the mayor’s absence, is chosen by the council members.

The three incumbents will serve four-year terms.

The incumbents beat out challenger Mary Newlin, who received 5,362 votes, or 19.78 percent.

Massey, in an email statement, thanked the electorate in Farmington Hills for the privilege of continuing to serve as the city’s mayor. 

“It is my distinct honor to continue to serve the great citizens of Farmington Hills,” he said in the email, adding his congratulations to the incumbent council members. “I, along with all on ... the council, am set to continue to work on the issues facing the community.” 

Knol echoed Massey’s sentiments via email.

“I am grateful that the residents put their trust in me and am very honored to have been re-elected,” she said. “The City Council will continue working to keep our city fiscally sound and deliver quality city services. We will also be dealing with the road funding system. While we have a mechanism for funding our roads, we need to look at other options and determine what direction our residents want to take.”

Bridges said via email that he is thankful for the votes. 

“I am grateful that the citizens of Farmington Hills recognize the work I have done on City Council and have rewarded me with a new four-year term,” he said in the email.

Farmington Public Schools’ non-homestead operating millage proposal won at the polls with 9,309 votes in favor, or 70.60 percent, and 3,877 votes against, or  29.40 percent.

Because property values have increased in 2017 for the FPS community, the local non-homestead millage rate has decreased from the maximum 18 mills to 17.8452 mills, a press release from the district states. A non-homestead property is one that does not serve as a primary residence — such as a commercial or rental property. One mill is $1 for each $1,000 of taxable value.

When property values grow faster than the cost of living index, it causes a millage rate reduction — authorized by the 1978 Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution.

Headlee requires cities and school districts to reduce the mills they levy when the annual increase in property values is greater than the rate of inflation. The millage rate is “rolled back” so that the resulting growth in property tax revenue, communitywide, is not greater than the rate of inflation.

Now that the measure is approved, it will allow FPS to continue to levy 18 mills on commercial, business, rental, vacant and second-home properties, according to a press release. 

The millage does not impact property taxes on primary residences. 

 The millage will raise an estimated $170,000 for the school district in the first year that it is levied.

FPS Superintendent George Heitsch said the day after the election that the win for FPS is “very good news.”

“We were checking election results last night (Nov. 7) on the Oakland County website as they came,” he said.

Heitsch said that the large gap between “yes” and “no” votes says that the community understands the issue at hand.

“They trust us to be good stewards of the money,” he said, adding that the community recognizes and respects the continuation of the work that FPS has in progress.

He added that the money will help the district focus on strategic planning and will go into the general fund.

“We’re grateful for the community support,” he said.

Farmington Hills City Clerk Pam Smith said via email that voter turnout was 18.56 percent, which was lower than the last two local elections — 24 percent in 2015 and 26 percent in 2013.

“Both of which included several millage or bond proposals and contested mayor and/or council member races,” Smith said. “The low turnout in local elections is disappointing.”

Voters might have noticed a new voting system, the Verity system, at the polls. The voting machines were chosen by Oakland County officials because they are secure, accurate and easy to use, a press release states.  

“The new equipment worked well, and there were very few questions with regard to setup and end-of-the-night procedures, which we anticipated with new equipment,” Smith said, adding that the city’s election inspectors put in good work. “(They) are extremely dedicated and always do a fantastic job for Farmington Hills.”

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