OPC seeks tax renewal, increase on August ballot

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 7, 2020

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — An operating millage renewal for the Older Persons’ Commission, which also includes an OPC millage increase, is planned for the August primary election.

The OPC is funded primarily through millages from Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township.

The OPC is seeking a renewal of its levy back up to 0.25 mill from Headlee rollbacks, plus a bump up, for a total of 0.32 mill for 10 years.

OPC Executive Director Renee Cortright said the OPC authorized millage has never increased above 0.25 mills since its inception in 1983.

“The OPC board and administration has worked hard over those years to meet the increasing demands without asking for a base millage increase. Since 2014, the OPC has secured an additional $205,000 in revenue and reduced potential expenses by $515,000 in order to meet demands. All these efforts have been successful; however, the ‘well is running dry,’ (and) additional resources are needed to meet these demands,” she said in an email.

The OPC facility is 17 years old, and although Cortright said it has been maintained “very well,” she said “age is taking its toll.”

“What we’re looking at and trying to prepare for is to be able to be self-sustained,” said John Dalton, chair of the OPC’s governing board and a resident of Rochester Hills. “We have a building that is beginning to age, and we want to be able to keep the high quality that we have.”

In the next 10 years, Cortright said, $6 million in capital needs are anticipated at the center.

“Since the OPC cannot issue debt or borrow, the funds must come from the OPC fund balance, which is supported by the millage,” she said.

Cortright said the OPC is asking for a millage increase this year because the organization is facing the effects of a substantial increase in demand for services as the number of individuals 50 and older increases in the three supporting communities. Statistics provided by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments project a 35 percent increase in the 60 and older population in the Rochester area (including Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township) through 2030. The OPC will also likely see usage increases from a few new senior housing complexes — including a 72-unit senior housing complex just south of the center, a 151-unit one just north of the OPC, and a 137-unit senior housing complex within walking distance of the facility.

“This not only reflects more people in the facility, but more vulnerable individuals who need care and additional programming,” she said in an email.

A millage is a unit of property tax equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value.

In Oakland Township, the OPC ballot question will ask voters to approve or deny a renewal of 0.2213 mill (reduced by the Headlee Amendment from the original 0.25 mill) and an additional 0.0987 mill for a total of 0.32 mills for 10 years, starting in 2020. If approved, the millage in Oakland Township would provide an estimated revenue of $452,000 if levied in full the first year.

In Rochester Hills, the OPC ballot question will ask voters to consider a renewal of 0.2334 mill (reduced by the Headlee Amendment from the original 0.25 mill) and an additional 0.0866 mills for a total of 0.32 mills for 10 years, starting in 2021. If approved and levied in full, officials said the millage in Rochester Hills would provide an estimated revenue of $1,230,240 in the first year.

In Rochester, the OPC ballot question will ask voters to approve or deny a renewal of 0.2337 mill (reduced by the Headlee Amendment from the original 0.25 mill) and an additional 0.09 mill for a total of 0.32 mills for 10 years, starting in 2020. If approved and levied in full, the millage in Rochester would provide an estimated revenue of $223,500 in the first year.

On a home with a taxable value of $200,000, 0.32 mill would cost $64 per year.

Cortright said the different millage rates within Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township are due to Headlee Amendment-altered property tax calculations. According to the Michigan Municipal League, “in a nutshell, Headlee requires a local unit of government to reduce its millage when annual growth on existing property is greater than the rate of inflation. Since property value growth differs by each municipality, the level of millage reduction will also differ.”

The years on the millage differ, Cortright said, because each municipality has a different fiscal year and a different tax collection period. Rochester Hills has a calendar-year fiscal year and places the OPC on the winter tax bill, with collections starting in December. Rochester starts its fiscal year July 1 and places the OPC on the summer tax bill, with collections starting in July. Oakland Township has an April 1-March 31 fiscal year and places the OPC on the winter tax bill, with collections starting in December.

The operating millage funds programs for seniors age 50 or older — such as Meals on Wheels, transportation and adult day care — required beyond the support provided by donations and grants. Cortright said the operational millage also provides for the upkeep and maintenance of the OPC facility — including all necessary capital improvements, and the general administration of the organization, including all required legal and financial reporting.

The OPC provides aid to seniors in the form of nutrition, transportation, adult day services and senior resources. The center also offers fitness and aquatic, arts and crafts, travel, social and intellectual programming, and performances. According to the 2019 OPC financial report, salaries, wages and fringe benefits are the OPC’s largest expense, making up approximately 43.6% of the center’s total expenses, or $2,091,955. The report said that of the approximately 110 commission employees, 13 are considered full time and receive benefits. The remaining 100 employees are all part time  — with a maximum 29 hours per week.

Professional services — which include all outside contractors, such as fitness and aquatics instructors, enrichment and art instructors, information technology support services, health services, social services support, audit services, and legal support — were the second largest expense category in the report at $1,149,984, or 24% percent of the center’s total expenses.

Maintenance, insurance, utilities and other expenses were next, with about $601,410 of the fiscal year 2019 expenses, or approximately 12.5% of the budget; followed by operating supplies — which include everything from food purchased by the nutrition and café program areas to custodial supplies, fuel for the commission’s buses, art supplies for the enrichment and arts program area, and general office supplies — at $510,523, or approximately 10.6 percent of expenses.

“The funds are needed to maintain the current programing for vulnerable seniors as well as maintain the OPC facility so that it can continue to be a place for area seniors to meet and interact,” Cortright said.

Older Persons’ Commission is located at 650 Letica Drive in Rochester. For more information, call (248) 656-1403 or  visit www.opcseniorcenter.org.

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