Two millage proposals pertaining to the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission are set to be on the ballot for the primary election Aug. 2.

Two millage proposals pertaining to the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission are set to be on the ballot for the primary election Aug. 2.

Photo provided by Meagan Tehako

West Bloomfield voters to decide Parks and Rec millages in August

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 13, 2022


WEST BLOOMFIELD — For the second time in two years, West Bloomfield voters will decide whether or not they want to approve a millage increase to support parks and recreation in the township.

In a primary election in 2020, residents approved the renewal of an existing parks and recreation ballot proposal.

In the primary election set to take place Aug. 2, voters will have two more millage proposals to consider that pertain to the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission.

One of the proposals is called a “renewal and restoration of general millage: 0.2435 mills.” The other proposal is a “renewal and restoration of restore millage: 0.35 mills.”

If the general millage proposal is approved, it is estimated that it would result in the authorization to collect up to $1,150,538 in the first year. If the restore millage is approved, it is estimated that it would result in the authorization to collect up to $1,653,750 in the first year.

When calculating property taxes, 1 mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission Executive Director Jennifer Tucker explained what it would mean for residents if both millages were approved, from a financial perspective.

“If you put that together — all that crazy jargon — basically, for every $100,000 of taxable value in someone’s home, (the) property owner would pay $59.35 per year,” she said.

Although an approval of the millages would mean that residents would see an increase in their taxes, from Tucker’s perspective, it is simply a matter of restoring millage rates back to what they were previously approved at by voters.

As for the general millage proposal, 0.2435 mills was originally approved, but it was reduced to a levy of 0.2288 mills in 2021.

The restore millage is giving voters an opportunity to decide if they want to restore a millage that was originally approved at 0.35 mills, but was reduced to 0.329 mills in 2021.

The reductions that occurred were due to the Headlee Amendment.

Under the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution, a community’s millage rates are reduced to offset any increase in overall taxable value exceeding the rate of inflation in a given year.

“These (reductions) are effected by the Headlee Amendment; that is the restore element of this,” Tucker said. “We’ll roll those back to the original amount that they were approved at. It’s not like we’ve increased that amount. It’s what the voters approved in the beginning.”

Tucker said that the millage proposals are “very similar.”

“There’s no difference between the two — just one is quite a bit older than the other,” she said. “The general millage was the first millage, when there was no offices or no employees. And then, as things grew, residents wanted more recreation opportunities in parks.”

Tucker shared the reason that the millage proposals are on the ballot.

“These are renewals,” she said. “Basically, this represents about half of our current funding. So without these two millages, we can’t operate like we do now. It’s a normal part of our current funding, so we ask the residents, if they like the parks and what we’re doing, please let us continue to do it.”

Tucker pointed out that, over the past 10 years, there have been renovations to pickle ball and tennis courts, improvements on the West Bloomfield Trail, and Lily Pad Springs, which is Michigan’s largest splash pad, was opened.

However, she believes there have been negative consequences as a result of the Headlee rollbacks.

“I would say with that Headlee rollback, there is some things that we haven’t been able to do, especially infrastructure things that aren’t the funnest things to do, but have to be done, like parking lots, drains and things people don’t see but are really necessary to have a nice park,” she said.

Tucker responded to the perspective some may have that due to inflation and having less money to work with being a reality for some, this may not be an ideal time to have taxes increased.

“I can understand that viewpoint,” she said. “Unfortunately, to continue to have quality services, we are dealing with the same inflation that everyone else is, and so to continue to operate, have an outstanding staff, and make sure those restrooms are clean and things are taken care of at the same level, we are seeing the same issues. Our residents have asked us to maintain this high standard, and we (want to) continue to do just that.”

Tucker is a proponent of what a quality parks system offers residents.

“In my perspective, parks enhance quality of life, help with mental health, physical health — everything from teaching nature to keeping our kids healthy, providing camp services (and) fun destinations — just the ability to go take a walk in the park,” Tucker said. “Some of those qualities are what people move here for.”

Tucker isn’t likely to get an argument from West Bloomfield resident John Calvin.

“Overall for the community … Parks and Rec, for me, between that department and the library, I think those are two things that would make me never want to move away from here,” Calvin said earlier this year.

West Bloomfield resident Su Goodman stated that she will be voting against the millages.

From her perspective, West Bloomfield hasn’t done enough with its resources.

“They do have a lot of parks people can use in the summer,” Goodman stated via email. “But what about recreation indoors in the winter? Where is our recreation center? We pay huge taxes, but do they purchase all the marshes, old schools and areas for parks? No.”

Goodman is also not pleased about what she stated is a kayak launch at Marshbank Park.

“They obviously never asked a person who uses a kayak,” she stated. “The path to get there from the parking lot is a long and winding path. There is a metal railing all around the opening in the dock, which makes it impossible to enter a kayak. It isn’t even a handicapped access. So there are no kayak launches except where motorboats are launched.”

Tucker said that since the onset of COVID-19, at times, there has been a 100% “increase in participation” at West Bloomfield parks.

It is her hope that the popularity of the parks will lead to the approval of the millages come Aug. 2.

“I believe that the residents just need to vote their heart, and I think that everyone has been touched by Parks and Recreation in some way or another, or will be in the future,” Tucker said. “I believe our residents value natural areas, green spaces and the environment, so I’m really hopeful that we do get approved.”