On Nov. 2, Rochester Hills is asking residents to consider “repurposing” and extending for 10 years an expired Older Persons’ Commission bond millage to improve and enhance the city’s aging park system facilities — including the facilities at Bloomer Park, which will turn 100 next year.

On Nov. 2, Rochester Hills is asking residents to consider “repurposing” and extending for 10 years an expired Older Persons’ Commission bond millage to improve and enhance the city’s aging park system facilities — including the facilities at Bloomer Park, which will turn 100 next year.

Photo provided by the city of Rochester Hills


Rochester Hills voters to consider ‘repurposing’ expired OPC bond for aging city parks system

Park usage ‘up 30% over the 300% that we had increased in COVID’

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published October 27, 2021

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ROCHESTER HILLS — Voters in Rochester Hills will soon decide whether to “repurpose” an expired Older Persons’ Commission bond millage to improve and enhance the city’s park system facilities.

In November 2000, Rochester Hills voters approved a 20-year OPC debt service millage through 2021 to levy the funds necessary to pay the annual debt service related to the construction of the OPC building. In April 2021, Rochester Hills Chief Financial Officer Joe Snyder said, the OPC building’s last debt service payment was made to pay the building debt off entirely.  

This year, during the Nov. 2 election, the city is asking voters to decide whether the expired OPC bond millage of 0.1660 mill should be “repurposed and replaced” — and extended for 10 years — with an equivalent tax levy to be used for improving and enhancing the city’s park system facilities, including projects at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm and all city parks and the Paint Creek Trail and the Clinton River Trail.

Mayor Bryan Barnett said the idea isn’t a new concept for the city.

“In the past, we have done this three times — for different road questions — and the residents have always supported it, at about a 3- or almost 4-to-1 clip,” he said.

If voters approve of the measure, city officials stressed, the move would not raise taxes over the current rate.

“This would not raise the tax rate for the residents, so they are not going to be paying any more taxes if they approve this,” Barnett explained. “We work really hard and have a great track record of not raising taxes in the city in many, many, many years. But what we try to do, oftentimes, is if a millage is rolling off, we’ll ask the voters if we can take a millage that we were collecting for one purpose, share with them another need, and ask if they will allow us to collect that money for this new purpose.”

Barnett noted that the millage proposal has nothing to do with the OPC’s operating millage and would not be taking any money away from OPC operations.

“In this case, the building debt for the OPC is falling off. That building is 20 years old. We’ve paid the mortgage, and we no longer need to pay the building debt component of that mortgage,” he said. “And we’re suggesting — if residents would allow us to — to use it toward improving, enhancing and maintaining our parks.”

Rochester Hills’ park system is showing its age, according to Parks and Natural Resources Director Ken Elwert.

The city’s oldest park, Bloomer, was built in 1924, and most other city parks — besides Innovation Hills — were built in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

“There’s a large need for renovation on our old parks,” Elwert explained. “The infrastructure, the playgrounds, parking lots, bathrooms, trails, all that type of stuff is in need of either renovation or replacement in the next five to 10 years. While the city is very responsible in trying to plan that out, there just isn’t necessarily enough money to get it all done in the time period that it needs to happen.”

The aging infrastructure, paired with record usage, has created an estimated backlog of over $10 million in deferred projects over the next 10 years.

“Our parks usage was up over 300% over COVID. It’s now up 30% over the 300% that we had increased in COVID, so we have a massive increase in the usage of our parks,” Barnett said.

If approved and levied in full in the first year, city officials said, the millage would provide an estimated $647,962 in tax revenue to be used for improving and enhancing the city’s park system facilities. Barnett said the millage would designate all funds for capital projects, not ongoing maintenance or staffing. The levy would begin in tax year 2021 for the fiscal year 2022 and continue through tax year 2030.

Snyder explained how the millage would affect the average homeowner.

“Using a home value in the city of Rochester Hills of $400,000, if the proposed Parks Infrastructure millage is approved, that homeowner would pay $33 per year as part of that millage specifically dedicated for parks infrastructure improvements,” Snyder said in an email.

“If the millage is not approved by voters, the $400K homeowner would have their overall tax bill reduced by the $33 (actually a little less due to inflation) and the overall city millage rate would decrease by the 0.1660 mill as the OPC Building Debt millage expires and there is no re-purposed millage approved by city voters to replace it,” he said in an email

Barnett said the city is hopeful that Rochester Hills residents will research this millage proposal ahead of the election to understand what the city is trying to do.

“We hope the residents will educate themselves, have a look at the website, and contact the city if they have any questions. And we hope the residents will get out and vote,” he said.

For more information on the proposed millage, visit www.rochesterhills.org/parksmillage.

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