Pleasant Ridge sets water infrastructure millage vote

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 21, 2021

Advertisement

PLEASANT RIDGE — The Pleasant Ridge City Commission approved a ballot proposal for a water infrastructure millage at its June 8 meeting.

The proposal will be placed on the ballot Nov. 2. If approved, the money from a 3.5-mill property tax levy will be used to reconstruct the city’s water infrastructure and replace lead service lines during the next 20-30 years.

The language of the ballot will read as follows: “Shall the City of Pleasant Ridge be authorized (to) levy up to three and one half (3.5) mills per year, for years 2022 through 2051, in excess of its Charter authorized tax rate as reduced by Section 34, Article IX of the 1963 State Constitution, such additional millage to be used to finance water infrastructure projects including water main replacement and construction, public and private lead service line replacement, and associated restoration work within the City of Pleasant Ridge? It is estimated that 3.5 mills would provide $620,993 if levied in full in 2022.”

If approved, the millage will replace a 35% water rate increase that was approved in May and will take effect on July 1. The rate increase originally was going to be used to raise revenue to pay for the water infrastructure improvements.

City Manager James Breuckman said the ballot proposal is more of a question for residents on how they want to pay for the infrastructure costs.

“It’s not a cost we can avoid,” he said. “It’s a project that we have to do and we’re mandated to do it by the state. So it’s, again, more of a question of, ‘Do you want to pay for this on your utility bills or do you want to pay for this through the property tax millage?’”

Breuckman said the city would prefer to go through property taxes because that is a certain revenue stream for Pleasant Ridge.

“When you increase water rates 35%, people naturally start to decrease the amount of water they use, which then brings in less revenue, which means we have to raise water rates even higher,” he said. “We’d much rather provide stability and certainty with our water rates as they are right now. So if the millage is approved, our water rates would go back down and we’d eliminate that 35% rate increase that we just had to do for the coming year.”

Commissioner Bret Scott stated there are two components in this increase. One is to mitigate the costs of removing lead from Pleasant Ridge’s system. The other is because of the age of the city’s water infrastructure.

Scott said much of Pleasant Ridge sits on a bed of sand, so there haven’t been many water main breaks and they haven’t had to do many repairs. What that has left them with, however, is century-old infrastructure.

“It’s not that the pipes are breaking; it’s that they’re shrinking on the inside,” he said. “Pipes calcify over time. That’s what’s happening around town … the water pressure in homes is getting lower and lower. So we’re hitting a point where we probably need to do something major anyways to the water main infrastructure to cover the fact that we haven’t had many breaks and the quality of the inside of the pipe is reducing.”

If the funding source is changed from water rates to the millage, the bottom line for residents won’t be impacted, said Breuckman, as no matter what there is going to be an increase in what they pay. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

Along with other Michigan cities, Pleasant Ridge is tasked with replacing lead service lines due to the adoption of the state’s Lead and Copper Rule in 2018. According to city documents, it will cost $8 million to replace them.

“At the same time, our water mains are nearly 100 years old and are also at the end of their life and require replacement,” a city document reads. “Replacing our water mains is estimated to cost about $16 million, for a total project cost of $25 million.”

More information on the project can be found at www.cityofpleasantridge.org/departments/water-and-sewer.

Advertisement