Signs direct voters where to go to cast their ballots during the May 2 election in Berkley.

Signs direct voters where to go to cast their ballots during the May 2 election in Berkley.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Berkley voters reject millage increase

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 3, 2023


BERKLEY — Berkley voters decided to reject a millage proposal May 2 that would have increased the millage rate for residents by nearly 3.46 mills.

Out of a total of 3,634 votes, 1,942 people voted no and 1,692 voted yes. The 250-vote margin was roughly 53% to 47%. There were more no votes than yes votes in every voting precinct.

The millage proposal was for a Headlee override that would have increased Berkley’s tax rate for city operations including police and fire. If it had been approved, the rate would have been increased by 3.4581 mills, or $3.46 per thousand dollars of taxable value. The increase would have been $346 for a home with a $100,000 taxable value.

Though disappointed with the result, City Manager Matt Baumgarten said the election shows why governments ask the voters to make big decisions.

“I think we made a case for some of the challenges we would face if this didn’t go through, but ultimately this was the voters’ decision on what comes next,” he said. “That’s how we make big important decisions like this, is by asking the people, and it’s hard to be disappointed in the outcome of an election when you ask the question specifically to people. Their will is their will and we’ll respond and still deliver as many services as we’re able with the funds that we have.”

Mayor Bridget Dean said she looked at the election result as the residents of Berkley communicating what they want and how they want the city to move forward.

“As a council, we will listen to that and make the difficult decisions that are before us, and we’ll strive to minimize the effects of this in terms of the quality of life that we all enjoy in Berkley,” she said.

The city previously stated that the failure of the proposal would affect and result in cutting back on some services. Baumgarten stated previously that some of those services include curbside leaf collection; the replacement of several Department of Public Works trucks and equipment; improvements to the Community Center, which includes replacement of the front doors and roof updates; and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and other building updates to the public library.

Baumgarten said the council will be reviewing the budget with its city directors during work sessions, where potential cuts will be discussed. The work sessions took place May 8-9, which occurred after the Woodward Talk went to press.

“Our directors have been preparing for this for some time,” he said. “We had to make sure that we knew it was an option because there are only two ways that (the vote) could have gone. So they’ve been preparing that list. I’m accumulating these items now to make sure that we get them into council’s hands before the work session, but ultimately (cuts) will be (the council’s) choice as elected leaders.”

When the new budget goes into effect on July 1, the city’s millage rate will be reduced to 15.7698 mills from 15.7752, according to Baumgarten. Had the millage proposal passed, it would have increased to around 19 mills.

The budget will go before the City Council for a vote on May 15.

“Our task now as a council is to look at which programs can be funded and, regrettably, those that need to be modified or canceled,” Dean said.