Parks millage renewal in Farmington Hills set for August ballot

Master plan input survey requested

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published June 5, 2018

 Dexi, a 4-year-old German shepherd, sits pretty at the William Grace Dog Park, on Shiawassee Road.

Dexi, a 4-year-old German shepherd, sits pretty at the William Grace Dog Park, on Shiawassee Road.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Luella Hempel, of Farmington Hills, participates in a past open swim.

Luella Hempel, of Farmington Hills, participates in a past open swim.

File photo by Deb Jacques


FARMINGTON HILLS — The city’s 10-year parks and recreation millage will expire next June, and voters will be asked to take to the polls Aug. 7 to decide on another 10-year millage. 

If passed, the millage would be a continuation of the previous voter-approved additional special tax for parks and recreation facilities and programs. If approved, it would authorize the city to levy 0.4781 mill — approximately 48 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on all taxable property in the city — for 10 years. 

This would ensue with a July 2019 levy and would result in the authorization to collect an estimated $1,573,000 in the first year if approved and levied.

During an April 23 Farmington Hills City Council meeting, Special Services Director Ellen Schnackel said that the parks and recreation millage was initially approved by voters in 1986 and was renewed for the third time in June 2009.

The 10-year millage renewal would provide the community with continued support of existing and new senior, cultural arts, recreation, youth, and parks programs and services, officials said.

“Continued maintenance and improvements of existing facilities (include) the Costick Center and nature center, Longacre House and our historical buildings,” Schnackel said, adding that maintenance includes the improvement of parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, trails and sports areas.

Schnackel said in a follow-up email that she has presented millage information to several community groups.

“The response has been very positive,” Schnackel said. “Participants indicated that they enjoy the many parks, programs and services the city provides. They recognize that the city has been good financial stewards.”

The millage renewal would cost the owner of a home with a market value of $100,000 about $23 annually, and the owner of a home with a market value of $250,000 nearly $60 annually, officials noted.    

Schnackel added that the yearly amount collected depends on property values.  

“The city is projecting about a 1 percent increase (in property values) per year over the course of 10 years — but this is only a projection,” she said.

During a late April meeting, City Council members voted 6-1 to put the renewal on the ballot. Councilman Randy Bruce voted no because he said he would have preferred it to be 1 mill.

“I think there is a lot that needs to be done,” Bruce said during the meeting. “We’re an aging city. Our infrastructure is aging.”

Farmington Hills Mayor Ken Massey said that he understands Bruce’s point. 

“And we did talk during (an earlier) study session that maybe we could come back with a second (millage request), but your point is well made,” he said.

Schnackel said that the millage has helped the Department of Special Services accomplish “much” over the past 10 years, which includes building the Riley Skate Park, the William Grace Dog Park, an amphitheater, the Riley Archery Range and the Nature Discovery Trail.

“Ten years of creating dynamic programs and events for all ages, interests and abilities — specifically senior programs and services, after-school programs for our youth, cultural arts programs and events,” Schnackel said.

Improvements were also made to the Olde Town Park playground, the Stables Art Studio, Heritage Park, historical buildings and the Costick Center parking lot. It also included the management of over 600 acres of parkland, 90 sports fields and over 6 miles of local trails.

Millage funding could also provide new program offerings at a new program space planned for Harrison High School.

Schnackel said in a late April email that the city hopes to begin construction in October 2019, when Farmington Public Schools vacates the facility. Construction could take roughly a year and a half to complete.  

In March, the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education approved the sale of the Harrison High School building and grounds to the city of Farmington Hills for $500,000.

“It will consist of the repurposing of the 245,000-square-foot high school into a recreation and arts facility,” Schnackel said in the email. “The facility and outdoor athletic fields/courts will allow the city to expand and further develop programming in visual and performing arts, athletics, aquatics, fitness, and general education for all ages and abilities.”

She noted that the addition of HHS also allows the city to expand programming for seniors currently at the 63,000-square-foot Costick Center. 

The facility could open in early 2021. 

Parks and recreation master plan
The Farmington Hills Department of Special Services finishes a parks and recreation master plan every five years per guidelines set forth by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, according to a press release. It helps set the tone for projected future needs and also makes the city eligible for funding through the DNR.  

The master plan is like a guide for the parks, recreation, facilities and programming decisions made by the Special Services Department over those next five years, the release states. 

The process includes obtaining public input. According to the release, hard copies of a survey will be available at the City Hall front desk and in Conway Hall, at the Costick Center, located at 28600 W. 11 Mile Road, between Middlebelt and Inkster roads. Responses are due by June 15.

“Participants who take the time to offer suggestions and opinions about our many parks, programs and facilities are extremely beneficial to us,” Schnackel said in the release. “We encourage both residents and nonresidents to complete the survey.” 

The survey is also available at, under the Resident tab/Surveys, or via www.survey 

Schnackel added that both the millage renewal and the public input survey stand to benefit residents.

“A millage renewal will provide funding for the continuation of many services for people, parks and programs. Completed master plan surveys help the city gauge the attitudes and interests of our residents and users with regards to our parks, facilities, programs and services,” she said, adding that if the millage renewal fails, “it will most likely be back on the ballot in November.”

For more information, contact the Special Services Department at (248) 473-1800.

Farmington Hills City Charter Amendment
Parks and Recreation Facilities and Program Projects Proposal

Farmington Hills City Charter Amendment Shall Section 7.02a of the Farmington Hills City Charter be amended to allow a renewal and continuation of the previous voter-approved additional special tax rate for parks and recreation facilities and program projects by authorizing the City to levy a millage in the amount of 0.4781 mills (being approximately 48 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on all taxable property in the City) for a period of ten years, starting with the July 2019 levy and resulting in the authorization to collect an estimated $1,573,000 in the first year if approved and levied for such purposes?   

— Official ballot language from the Oakland County Elections Division