Wednesday, June 18, 2014

SMART Looks to INCREASE millage to 1.0 mills for 4 Years

Hi All,
This August 5, 2014, there is a ballot question regarding SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation).  The title of the ballot question is very misleading as this proposal is actually an increase from 0.59 mills/year  to 1.0 mills/year.  This "1.0 renewal"  is for the years 2014 through 2017.

From the SMART website:
The SMART millage proposal is for 1.0 mill, an increase of .41 mills. Due to declining property values SMART lost nearly $50 million in revenue since 2008. In addition, 80 percent of SMART’s fleet is in need of replacement with each bus having more than 500,000 miles, exceeding the Federal Transit Administrations useful life guidelines. The Authority has made $11 million in budget adjustments by reducing Administrative costs through wage cuts, furlough days, layoffs, eliminating all discretionary budgets, and implementing $6 million in cuts through union negotiations.
On a daily basis, thousands of people, including seniors and people with disabilities rely on SMART for work, school, medical appointments and shopping. Without the increased millage, SMART will not be able to provide service beyond 2015.

This REGIONAL tax  ( three counties participate:  Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland)  is also misleading as many communities within the counties have "opted out" and this ballot question will NOT be on their community ballot on August 5 and they will not be paying the tax.  My community, Bloomfield Township has not opted out, therefore the millage proposal is ON the ballot.
The City of Bloomfield Hills has opted out, even though Woodward Ave. passes through their community. They will not see this ballot question.
If this ballot proposal passes, the money collected from Township residents will be approximately $3.2 MILLION dollars each year.  According to Christine Tvaroha, director of Bloomfield Township Senior Services, approximately $90,000 of that money is returned to our community each year which is used to pay for gas/insurance/drivers  for the 3 vehicles currently parked at the senior center.

The three SMART vehicles at Bloomfield Township Senior Center are a van used for the Friendship Club, and two 14 passenger vans used for day trips and for senior center participants.

When asked how do the City of Bloomfield Hills residents get to use Smart Transportation from the Bloomfield Township Senior Center, Ms. Tvaroha said that community still receives "municipal credits" from SMART (even though they opt out of the millage)  in the amount of $2500 for medical transportation.  The City gives the Township senior center the "municipal money credits"  and the township contracts with JVS (Jewish Vocational Services) to provide the medical transportation.  Once the City of Bloomfield Hills has used their $2500 credit, the services are no longer available to them until the next year.

SMART connector Buses are available for Bloomfield Township residents.   Here is a list of communities  that are currently "opted in"  in the three Counties that can use the SMART connector buses.

The SMART website does give much detailed information about using the bus system.  The question is:  How many people in the three counties actually know anything about the system or use it?  This millage will generate approximately $27 MILLION  per year from the communities in the 3 counties.

Questions:  Can you get from the Detroit airport to downtown or other destinations?  Can you get from the surrounding communities to the various sports/ theaters/ museums/ malls?  Does the current system work for the majority of the potential users?  If you pay for a system... it should be able to take you to places you want to visit/work.... and have a dependable fleet with a dependable schedule.  

I have used the bus system in the Denver/Boulder/Denver International Airport for many years.  It is a well used and popular operation and quite dependable.   I have never used the SMART bus system.
Would I take the bus to the airport? museums? sports arenas? etc.?  Yes, if the route was available, dependable, reasonably priced and safe.  Will raising the millage rate make this current system better?  I doubt it.

Reread the previous paragraph from the SMART website.  The program needs to replace 80% of it's fleet.  Layoffs/ furloughs/wage decreases/ etc.  It sounds like a system that is not working.   What is happening at the Bloomfield Township Senior Center with SMART appears to be beneficial to some in our community....but do we need to spend $3.2 Million to get back $90,000?  Is there a way our community could provide the same services without the SMART money?   Perhaps Bloomfield Township should have "opted out" like other communities.   Will I vote for this millage increase?  NOI will only consider a yes vote in a November election.  It is NOT FAIR to put this kind of money issue on an August ballot.  


Below is the ballot language that will be on SOME August 5, 2014 ballots in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.  The TOTAL vote from the three counties... determines if it passes or fails. 
(the word: SAMPLE  is over the below ballot language as I copied it from a sample ballot on the Bloomfield Township website) .

Remember:  look at the sample ballot for YOUR precinct in YOUR community ... as the ENTIRE list of ballot questions MAY be different depending on your address. 

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