The St. Clair Shores City Council voted 5-2 to approve language for a millage proposal on the August 2024 ballot.

The St. Clair Shores City Council voted 5-2 to approve language for a millage proposal on the August 2024 ballot.

Photo by Alyssa Ochss

St. Clair Shores City Council sets streets millage language for August election

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 29, 2024


ST. CLAIR SHORES — In a 5-2 vote, the St. Clair Shores City Council, at their March 18 meeting, approved ballot language for a streets millage proposal to be put on the August 2024 ballot.

Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Candice Rusie and Councilman John Caron cast the opposing votes.

According to documents attached to the agenda for the meeting, the proposal, if approved, would set the expiring streets millage at 2 mills for five years. The millage already includes city streets and would add alleys and parking lots. The new millage rate is said to collect $3,931,795.50 per year for the city.

City Manager Dustin Lent said they added language to the proposal during their work study session that included other paved assets.

He went on to say the current millage rate was rolled back and it is currently at 1.6430. It was adopted in 2019 for five years.

Mayor Kip Walby said the millage goes back decades. He also said the city was rewarded with the millage.

“We have 200 miles of roads, so we haven’t done every one of them, but I think we’ve done a good job over these decades to take care of the roads and the streets here in St. Clair Shores,” Walby said. “So I think it’s been positive for the people that have brought this many decades ago.”

Walby also acknowledged that the millage rate has increased over the years. He said in 2014, the rate was raised from 1 mill to 1.25; in 2019, they raised it to 1.75; and in 2024, the millage rate is going to be raised to 2 mills. He said he does support the increase as well as adding the parking lots and the alleyways.

“It is an increase. I do realize that. Nobody likes to raise people’s taxes, but I think it’s important that we stay ahead of this,” Walby said.

Caron and Rusie voiced their concerns about raising taxes.

Caron said they raised the millage rate in 2014 because they added the street lighting to the millage. He argued back then they shouldn’t have raised the millage rate but instead put a permanent funding mechanism in place for the required payment. In 2019, he said, they had a similar experience and debate during a meeting because they wanted to include parking lots.

He said the millage brought in around $3.2 million last year and in the last two fiscal years the taxable value of properties experienced a 10% raise.

“So that’s already increased, what comes in around that millage, $300,000,” Caron said. “We’re going to have another 5% added on, probably 3% next year depending (on) what inflation is. So that money is still going up at the current rate.”

He said back when the millage was originally passed, they had a plan to tackle the worst roads in the city and he thinks they’ve fixed all the roads with the worst ratings.

“I think, in terms of (the) number of roads we’re going to have for full replacement, hopefully that’s going to start going down because of all the work we’ve already done,” Caron said. “So I think, in terms of that, we don’t need to increase the millage rate for that.”

On top of all this, Caron said, they have to worry about the taxes included from the police and fire pension millage, which has been underfunded in the past. The city doesn’t have exact numbers right now, but Caron said they’ve been told there is going to be an increase. He also said he doesn’t know how much more of a burden they can ask the residents to bear based on financial decisions the council is making.

Rusie said she thinks that parking lots are far removed from streets and while she can make an argument for the other items mentioned, she cannot make an argument for the parking lots.

“I can’t extend this to a capital expense like a city parking lot,” Rusie said. “We might as well put (the) police station and fire station in here and still call it a street millage.”

She also expressed concerns similar to Caron’s about increasing the millage rate.

In the end, she said she didn’t think this ballot proposal was a responsible decision.

Councilman Ronald Frederick said that streets are not a “one and done” situation.

“You don’t do a road and it’s great for 100 years,” Frederick said. “Especially now.”

He also said that some of the parking lots that Caron mentioned like the Civic Ice Arena parking lot and the St. Clair Shores Golf Course Club parking lot are not done. He mentioned that costs are rising as well.

He said he thinks using the millage money for alleyways is a smart thing.

“Because what happens in alleys is we end up doing these little Band-Aids on these alleys, and it’s almost a waste of money,” Frederick said. “I mean, talk to any of these guys that are doing the patchwork in there.”

He went on to say the patchwork is getting pulled out of the ground.

“Some of these alleys really need to be reconstructed, rethought out, a little deeper with more base and thicker cement so that they last longer,” Frederick said. “So that we’re not going back and patching these things every year.”

He also said he wants to go back and fix these issues, so the residents don’t have to spend money on their cars if they hit a damaging pothole in the alleyways.

Councilman Dave Rubello said in a text that the ballot decision is ultimately one the voters will make.

“Their voice must be heard, in my opinion,” Rubello said in the text.