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Streets millage to go before St. Clair Shores voters

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 22, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — St. Clair Shores voters will decide whether to approve a five-year streets millage at a higher rate later this year.

The City Council approved ballot proposal language for the expiring 1.196-mill, five-year streets millage at its March 18 meeting, after considering both how high of a millage to request from voters and also whether some municipal parking lots should be included in the permitted use for the tax dollars raised.

“This millage is very needed with regard to the amount of work that needs to be done in the city,” said City Manager Mike Smith.

Voters last approved a rate of 1.25 mills in 2014, which has since been reduced by Headlee Amendment rollback to 1.196. With the cost of concrete up about 30 percent, however, Smith said that the city may not be able to accomplish as much street paving if residents were simply asked for a renewal. That is why the City Council considered millage rates of 1.25, 1.50 and 1.75 mills for the proposal, which will be on the August ballot if a primary election is triggered by the number of candidates running for City Council and mayor, or on the November general election ballot if no primary is needed.

Several council members objected to including parking lot paving as part of the streets millage.

Councilman John Caron said that the general fund could cover a majority of the costs of repaving city parking lots if the council is disciplined in its budgetary practices. He said he believes that the streets millage does need to continue, but all of the money should go into repairing streets, not parking lots.

A 1.75 mil rate is expected to produce $2.6 million in revenue in its first year. Conversely, a 1.25 mill rate would produce $1.9 million in its first year.

“I feel like we’re losing the battle with our streets and we’re getting further and further behind,” said Councilman Peter Rubino. “I hate even the idea of increasing a millage on people, but we’re pretty desperate.”

For each quarter-mill increase, Smith said that it would cost the owner of an average home in St. Clair Shores with a $120,000 taxable value about $16 extra.

Councilman Peter Accica said that he thinks the 1.75 mill rate is the way to go because he finds himself avoiding some local streets because of their condition.

“We have one chance to do this, do it right,” he said.

Smith said that the 1.75 mill rate would allow the city to “get ahead of the curve” instead of just keeping pace with the rate of “road inflation.”

If approved by voters, the new millage rate will go into effect July 1, 2020. The City Council approved the ballot proposal with a vote of 6-1. Councilwoman Candice Rusie was opposed.

The same night, the City Council unanimously approved ballot language for a renewal of the three-year police and fire millage at the current rate of just under 5 mills. That proposal will be on the August ballot if there is a primary election or on the November ballot if there is not a primary election.