Public safety millage to appear on Aug. 2 ballot

Group says proposal is convoluted, taxpayers getting squeezed by cost of living already

By: Mary Beth Almond | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 29, 2022

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — A millage focused on public safety will be voted on in Bloomfield Township Aug. 2.

The new public safety millage, according to officials, would replace two expiring public safety millages, and add a 0.06 mill increase, to further support and finance the township’s fire, police and public safety protection, officials said.

The township currently has four public safety millages. Public safety millage No. 3 — which had a levy rate of 1.0572 mills for 2022 — is set to expire in 2023. Public safety millage No. 4 — which had a levy rate of 2.2307 mills in 2022 — is set to expire in 2022. The new replacement public safety millage would combine public safety millages Nos. 3 and 4  — which had a combination levy of 3.2879 mills — to levy 3.89 mills for a period of 10 years.

Officials said the replacement millage also includes an increase of 0.6021 mills, providing an estimated increase of $2.67 million for public safety in 2023.

If voters approve the replacement millage, the township would have three public safety millages  — public safety No. 1, public safety No. 2 and the replacement millage — for an overall total of 6.4087 mills in fiscal year 2023-2024. The final year of public safety millage No. 3 would not be levied in 2023, township officials said.

“It is a new millage, and we are asking for a light increase,” Police Chief Phil Langmeyer said. “The good thing about that is we are trying to cut back on the number of millages. I guess the plan is — down the road — to combine two of the other public safety millages. It saves the township money, about $100,000 per election, if we have to put on a special election. It also puts future millage renewals on a gubernatorial or a presidential election cycle, which means we get good voter turnout,” he said.

If approved and fully levied, officials estimate the Aug. 2 proposal would result in the authorization to collect $18,175,000 for public safety in the first year.

Langmeyer said the consolidation of the two millages, combined with the proposed 0.6 mill increase, would allow the Police Department to bring back its traffic unit to provide targeted traffic enforcement, potentially expand the animal welfare hours of operation while increasing the availability of patrol officers, provide for the better supervision of dispatchers, and improve the Police Department’s ability to respond to community problems and needs.

“The No. 1 noncriminal complaint we get from our residents is traffic,” Langmeyer said. “I can have my officers go into the subs when they are free, but I’m going to be honest with you: We’re operating at bare bones, and they don’t really have the time to get into the subs as much as we would like them to to run radar.”

If the millage is approved, Fire Chief John LeRoy hopes to hire an additional firefighter to help with overtime costs.

“The Fire Department when I hired in 20 years ago had 21 personnel per shift. In the 20 years that I’ve been here, we’re down to 18 personnel per shift now, so we’re at a point now where there is no more room for reductions, and we’re hiring a lot of overtime. There’s no buffer anymore,” he said.

Between vacations, sick time and injuries, LeRoy said, the Fire Department is hiring overtime on a daily basis.

“Our overtime number has shot through the roof the last several years. It’s almost getting to the point now where it’s unsustainable. I’ve had several individuals that worked 30-40 shifts last year, additional to their regular schedules, and those are 24-hour shifts. It’s just not a good mental health balance.”

LeRoy said the additional funding will also help with skyrocketing costs in just about every category.

“Everything is costing more,” he said. “The costs right now are killing us. I’m seeing 20%-30% or greater increases in everything across the board — from apparatus to equipment to the electricity and the gas at all four of our four fire stations.”

Some residents, however, are against the millage.

Bloomfield Township resident MaryAlice LeDuc — a member of the Better Bloomfield Township organization — said the ballot language is “convoluted” and will “be confusing to voters.” Because the renewal of 3.2879 mills — public safety millages Nos. 3 and 4 — and an increase of 0.6021 mills are combined on the ballot, she said, one cannot vote for a renewal separate from an increase.  The word “increase,” she added, is not included in the ballot language.

“I don’t think it was worded in the best way to really let voters know what they are voting on,” LeDuc said. “That’s one of the biggest issues we have, as the Better Bloomfield Township group — which is the ballot language being a combination of a renewal and an increase. Voters do not get to vote on the issues separately. The renewal is packaged with the increase, and you get only one vote.”

LeDuc is also concerned that the township does not have a master plan in place with input from residents on where and how taxpayers’ money should be spent. She said the last master plan expired in 2014, so there has been no agreed-upon direction for the community in eight years.

“The last plan expired in 2014 and there has not been a new master plan on how we, as a community … should be operating,” LeDuc said. “There has been no survey of residents on how they want their tax dollars to be spent.”

Bloomfield Township resident Linda Ulrey, also of the Better Bloomfield Township group, said she thinks the proposal is “very poorly timed” and “not transparent.”

“I couldn’t think of a worse time, and community, to propose to its residents that they agree to an increase on their property taxes via this millage request, given that they are already going to be getting more money because the base tax rate is a multiplier now on an increased home value. So, in other words, they are already getting more money just because of the mathematics of how taxes are created,” she said. “To layer on that, another request — at a time when this community, that largely consists of senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes, are experiencing high costs of living in just about every category — seems to me to be probably one of the most unthinkable recommendations that could come from our local government.”

Ulrey said she also finds it “hard to believe” that the primary reason for the increase is to hire more traffic cops.

“At a time in this country when altercations between traffic police and citizens are at an all time high, you’d think that would be an area we would want to steer away from now,” she said.

For more information, call the township at (248) 433-7700.