Ferndale puts millage questions on November ballot

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 21, 2024


FERNDALE — Approved at its May 13 meeting, the Ferndale City Council voted unanimously to approve a proposal for a Headlee override, as well as a charter amendment to establish a “special purpose millage to support police and fire facilities and recreation facilities and operations.”

The ballot language reads, “Shall the limitation on the amount of taxes which may be imposed on taxable property in the City of Ferndale, County of Oakland, State of Michigan be increased by 8.5856 mills ($8.5856 per thousand dollars of taxable value) indefinitely beginning in 2025, as new additional millage in excess of the limitation imposed by Michigan Compiled Laws section 211.34d, to restore City Charter operating millage authorization previously approved by the electors as reduced by operation of the Headlee amendment, to provide funds for general operating purposes? It is estimated that 8.5856 mills would raise approximately $8,181,810 when first levied in 2025.”

The move to add a question to the ballot is a recommendation from the city’s Resident Finance Committee. The committee was formed to study how a renewal or nonrenewal of the override, which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2025, might impact current staffing and service levels and impact progress toward the recommendations from the 2022 resident-led facilities task force.

The city charter operating millage for 2025, according to City Manager Joe Gacioch, will be 11.4144 mills. With the 2015 10-year Headlee override millage of 4.2808, the 2025 combined general operating millage would be 15.6952 mills.

If the override is approved, the Headlee would be reset back to 20 mills. The city has not been able to levy 4.3 mills due to Headlee rollbacks. Under the Headlee Amendment, if the assessed value of a local taxing jurisdiction increases by more than the inflation rate, the maximum property tax millage must be reduced so that the local jurisdiction’s total taxable property brings in the same gross revenue as adjusted for inflation.

“The city is not allowed to levy that unless the voters choose to levy that to support city services,” Gacioch said. (The proposal) would restore the authority of the city to levy the full authorized amount. … Doing so would cancel the remainder of the (2015) Headlee override millage …  and because of this, the total Headlee override request would be 8.5856 mills. The net increase from the property taxes that are being paid right now would be 4.3048 mills.”

The net increase would be $4.3048 per thousand dollars of taxable value.

For the charter amendment, Gacioch said if voters were to increase the authorization to 20 mills, then four of those mills will be earmarked to be spent on public safety and recreation purposes in perpetuity. The money would be used for construction and maintenance of facilities.

Council member Greg Pawlica said that, though Ferndale has lost 4.3 mills over the last decade, the city has still been able to balance the budget. He credited the override that was passed in 2015 for that reason.

“We’ve made a lot of cuts, we’ve trimmed a lot of fat over the last 10 years, and that’s evident through the fact that we’ve been able to balance the budget and still lose 4.3 mills in the last 10 years,” he said. “What we’re really asking is for what you’re paying today, plus 4 mills to dedicate to police, fire and recreation facilities, and we’d still be able to offer all the services that we offer, we provide you today, going further down the road.”

Pawlica stated he supported the millage because it was presented by the residents through the Resident Finance Committee.

“It’s a group of residents that came from many different walks of life, all parts of the city, new residents, residents have been here for decades,” he said. “They sat down, they respected one another’s opinions, but ultimately they all came to the same conclusion that if we want to continue with the great services and the great community that we have, we’re going to have to support this.”