Officer Emily Davey has been with the West Bloomfield Police Department for about two years. Officials said a proposed millage renewal would support the department’s 80 sworn officers, 18 support staff members and 12 dispatchers.

Officer Emily Davey has been with the West Bloomfield Police Department for about two years. Officials said a proposed millage renewal would support the department’s 80 sworn officers, 18 support staff members and 12 dispatchers.

Photo by Donna Agusti


West Bloomfield board to consider ballot options for public safety, safety path millages

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 21, 2019

 The township’s public safety services are funded by a combination of dedicated millages and general funds.

The township’s public safety services are funded by a combination of dedicated millages and general funds.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees will soon finalize the language for two proposals that residents will vote on this summer: a safety path millage renewal, possibly with a small increase, and a public safety millage replacement that covers 70 percent of the community’s police, fire and paramedic services.

The special election is set for Aug. 6. The board will consider the ballot language at its regular meeting April 1.

“Residents deserve to have stability in terms of public safety expectations,” Steven Kaplan, the West Bloomfield Township supervisor, said via email. “In the event that the public safety renewals are not approved by the voters, the township board would need to seek (in 2020) another millage renewal election, at a lower millage rate.”

 

The cost
The millage replacement takes two existing public safety millages — originally approved by voters in 2011 and expiring in 2021 — and replaces them with one new levy for an 11-year period expiring in 2030.

The two existing millages levy a total of 5.9878 mills. However, due to the Headlee Amendment’s rollback mandate, the proposed millage rate for the replacement is 5.7307 mills.

The township collects $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value, times the millage rate. So for a home in West Bloomfield Township with a taxable value of $100,000, the millage replacement would cost about $573 per year.

The other proposal, meanwhile, seeks to renew the township’s safety path millage that was originally approved by voters in 2004 and expires this December. The 2004 millage levied 0.1949 mill. The renewal would be for 15 years, expiring in 2034.

The board is currently considering two versions of this proposal: a renewal that reduces the levy to 0.1919 mill — due to the Headlee Amendment rollback — or a renewal with a small increase to 0.2 mill.

The former would cost a resident whose home has a taxable value of $100,000 about $19 in the first year, while the latter would cost the same home about $20. The renewal with the increase would raise about $39,000 in township revenue.

“By placing the public safety and safety path renewals on the ballot, the township board is providing the residents with a choice regarding whether they want to maintain the current staffing levels,” Kaplan said.

 

The value
The millage replacement covers a significant portion of the community’s public safety costs, including the Police Department and Fire Department. Through its general fund, the township allocates about $9 million annually for public safety purposes. However, this $9 million accounts for only 30 percent of the total public safety budget.

The remaining 70 percent is provided by way of the public safety millages.

“If the millage renewal is not approved, substantial numbers of police officers and firefighters/paramedics would be laid off,” Kaplan said.

The township’s Police Department currently consists of 80 sworn officers, 18 support staff members and 12 dispatchers, although the department is budgeted for 15 dispatchers. There are 94 firefighters and three administrative assistants in the Fire Department.

The township supervisor touted the successes of both departments.

“West Bloomfield consistently has been rated one of the safest municipalities in Michigan,” Kaplan said, noting that only one homicide, four armed robberies and two carjackings have occurred in the community since 2010.

“West Bloomfield’s safety stems from proactive law enforcement, neighborhood watches, and the competency and professionalism of our officers,” he said. “Both the Fire Department and Police Department have rapid response times, averaging less than four minutes per call. Many lives are saved by our fire personnel, who arrive quickly at the scene and administer high-quality, stabilizing health care.”

The safety path millage, meanwhile, finances the construction, improvement and maintenance of an interconnected, nonmotorized pedestrian pathway, one that is still incomplete but that will one day span 76 miles, winding throughout most of the township’s 33 square miles, ranging from 14 Mile and Inkster roads to Haggerty and Richardson roads, and to the Cooley Lake area.

“Safety paths contribute to the livability of a community,” Kaplan said. “They enable our residents and visitors to engage in exercise, or simply leisurely walks, while enjoying our many environmental features. They also provide safe passage, whereby walkers and bicyclists avoid being in or near the street.”

Debbie Macon served 12 years as a township board trustee and is currently a member of the Greater West Bloomfield Cable Communications Commission. She’s also co-chair of a board promoting the public safety replacement millage — a volunteer group not affiliated with the township.

“We want residents to join us in ensuring that we continue the great quality of life we have here in West Bloomfield,” Macon said. “We have the best public safety on the planet, as well as the legacy of enjoying our safety path.

“The proposed public safety millage (replacement) will keep this system going, and at no increase in our expenditures,” she said. “It’s not a tax increase of any kind. But it does support the excellent public staff that takes care of us.”

West Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Patton said that the millage funding is “critical” in the ongoing support of public safety services.

“(We) are very proud to offer a wide variety of services,” Patton said, adding that first responders are active in the community in a number of ways — from teaching classes to active shooter response and beyond. “All officers have a function here, so we’re looking to continue that.”

Patton added that if the millage renewal is not supported, then a number of services wouldn’t be properly provided.

“The funding is very critical to our operations in West Bloomfield,” he said.

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