In Sunday's Birmingham Eccentric (7-27-14) was a written opinion from guest columnist and Bloomfield Township Supervisor, Leo Savoie, encouraging people to vote on the 4 millages.
I have based my blog on that opinion article.
My title of this blog: " It is LEGAL to LIE" is because I love that line...and it is legal to lie.... I hear people telling lies more often than I like....and honestly, I wanted to catch your attention so you would read my blog.
In this blog of mine, I will point out things said in Mr. Savoie's OPINION piece..... that seem to me .... to "stretch the truth".. "alter the facts"... "misrepresent the truth".... "leave out information".... "use scare tactics" ...etc.
My OPINION piece... differs from his. I say vote NO on all Bloomfield Township 2014 millage issues... I'll try to give you facts to back my opinion.
How you vote.... will affect your taxes for the next ten years. Currently, there is money in the bank at the Township in the millions... much of it in DEDICATED accounts with millions that can be spent on these issues.... ie: safety paths, senior services, public safety.... and THAT banked money can/should be used over the next 2 years WITHOUT RENEWING MILLAGES. The township leadership should re-examine these issues at public forums... and if needed, present millages at even year November elections. The next one... 2016. The current money in the bank CAN and should get the township to that point. Thank you.
Here are 8 points from Mr. Savoie's opinion piece that I feel the need to comment.....
1. Savoie: If these are all approved, our community’s present level of services will stay the same and residents’ tax rate will stay the same.
Each time there are millages, the same comment is made by the township leaders. Yet, there are new expensive pieces of equipment being bought, 2% raises given to ALL employees, and much much more just in the past several years. This is NOT "staying the same".
Yes, the TAX RATE may be the same... but the value of your home may have increased... and if so, your taxes will increase, too... see this chart for BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP from: https://www.accessmygov.com/MunicipalDashboard/Performance?uid=511
Percent of community with access to high speed broadband
Percent of community age 25+ with a Bachelor Degree or higher
Average market value of residential property
Average household income
Number of commercial and residential building permits
2. Savoie: The two public safety proposals are separate questions. The two millages (we have four public safety millages altogether) were adopted at different times in the past and they are both up for renewal now.
Well, there are 2 items in this statement that need clarification.
a) It is true there are 4 DEDICATED public safety millages, however, there is another "general obligation" millage that was presented to the public in February 2010 for a 1.3 mills for 10 years that generates about $4 million dollars a year... that is pretty much all put into the public safety budget. So... that makes 5 millages used...for public safety.
b) Both are up for renewal now..... well... again... the Township leadership decided to put both public safety millages on THIS ballot... and spent $13,000 of our tax dollars for a survey... to see if the public will vote for both millages......but the TRUTH is one of the public safety millages DOES NOT EXPIRE until after taxes are collected in 2015. There is NO NEED to put it on this ballot. The November 2016 election will work just fine. I wonder how many taking the survey understood that this millage was NOT expiring NOW.
MONEY for that public safety B millage will still be collected in 2014 and 2015 regardless of the vote on Aug. 5. Yet Mr. Savoie tells you that if you don't pass it NOW... there will be layoffs and closures...NOW. WHY?? The money will still be collected!
Why put THAT public safety B millage up for renewal TWO YEARS EARLY?
Perhaps the Township Leadership decided because there is a 2nd wage opener in April 2015... (in the employee six year contract) and since we really aren't keeping things "the same"..... is another wage increase coming ? How convenient would it be to have the answer to the millage renewal 2 years early? I say... vote NO. Base the "wage opener" negotiations on the CURRENT facts. The entire CONTRACT will also be expiring soon. What else may change in that contract? What will the state of the economy be in 2016. WE DON'T NEED TO VOTE ON PUBLIC SAFETY B... IT DOES NOT EXPIRE NOW. VOTE NO.
FYI: The employee 6 year contract was negotiated in 2011.. just before a state law went into effect..(PA 152) and so for the last several years, our township leadership had the legal authority to "opt out" of that state law...which they did, and therefore the township leadership did NOT require employees to put more of their money into their health care package. So, we, the taxpayers paid.
3. Savoie: ON THE PUBLIC SAFETY PROPOSALS:
Proposal A would renew 1.3 mills... and ... Proposal B would renew 0.60 mills....
Not true. Wrong figures. See: Millage Proposals August 5, 2014 Primary Election
Posted: June 12, 2014 on the township website under Clerk/Elections
The millage RATE and the millage collection DATES are different from Savoie's quote in the Eccentric article.
The REAL rates are: 1.1336 and 0.6941 mills and the collection dates are: 2014-2023 and 2016-2025.
4. Savoie: speaking about Public Safety A and B...millages in the Eccentric article.
If defeated, it would mean that 35 positions – 20 police officers and 15 firefighters/EMS technicians – would be cut. Additionally, one fire station would be closed.
If defeated, 25 positions – 10 police officers and 15 firefighters/EMS technicians – would be eliminated. Additionally, one fire station would be closed.
Is this language in the article and other published articles just SCARE TACTICS? I say it is.... VOTE NO.
Below are parts of the minutes from the February 24, 2014 STUDY SESSION where the township leadership spoke about the millages.
Note: there is NO talk of closures and layoffs at this study session meeting. A millage that would fail that would produce those kinds of layoffs and station closure.... should be a topic of discussion among the elected leadership and department employee leadership. There was NO such talk at this meeting or any other PUBLIC meeting that I am aware of. First hint of this kind of drastic action if the millages failed was found in the language of the 2014 Mitchell Survey that the Board authorized for $13,000. See the report/survey in the Board Packet for June 9, 2014 for details.
Who gave Mitchell Survey THAT information?
WHY no mention of layoffs and closures at the February Study Session?
Was it because there is PLENTY of money in the bank at the township? How else could the township be rated AAA?
Or perhaps is it because they are so confident that not many will show up to vote or pay attention to what is going on at the township?
The leadership seemed to be so confident at this February 2014 meeting... they didn't even discuss the upcoming BUDGET approval in the next month of March.
However, in the proposed and approved budget the township leadership INCLUDED the revenue from these millages.... but in reality, that will NOT BE REVENUE unless the millages are passed on the ballot in AUGUST.
I asked...during "public comment".... how can they include REVENUE on the budget that hasn't been approved to be collected? Savoie answered that even if all the millages FAIL.... the budget will still be good. Of course, that statement did not make the minutes. Another reason why I think ALL public meetings should be audio/video recorded and archived.
More paragraphs not copied..Study Session 2/24/14 minutes... but those talked about the different safety PATH proposals which were not put on this ballot.
The MINUTES fail to reflect MY concerns at the Study Session meeting.
5. Savoie: Senior Services proposal would renew 0.2498 mills.....
The real rate on the ballot for Senior Services is: 0.2439 mills.....Why can't Savoie give the ACCURATE number?
6. Savoie: TALKING ABOUT SENIOR SERVICES: Since the center opened in 2009, the number of township residents using it has grown significantly each year. The center welcomes an average of 92 new people each month, combining with longtime patrons to total 300-400 people a day, six days a week.
The Senior Program has been receiving millage money since 2004... from that year's Stealth ballot ... the taxpayers have been paying for the last TEN YEARS.... The new senior facility opened perhaps in 2009.... but the senior services has been collecting about $800,000 for each of the last ten years. They have BANKED over $2.3 million.
That money can only be used for senior services. USE THAT MONEY NOW. That is enough to wait until November 2016 election cycle to consider any ballot question.
The truth of the Senior Services budget... around $800,000 is needed for staff/health insurance/ pensions, etc. Most of the classes and programs are self supporting or are funded by grants and very generous volunteers. There is no reason to threaten and scare the seniors with reduction of services. There is CURRENTLY money in the bank to cover the costs and keep all the services and programs running for two years or more.
According to the 2010 Census, there are 41,070 residents in Bloomfield Township. 19,638 were 50 years old or older in 2010. There were 17,799 housing units, with only 16,466 of them occupied in 2010. So why do I say this? Perhaps the Township leadership could consider a different way to generate revenue for the Senior Services. In other articles, the township says that 11,000 seniors have "profiles" on record. If each of those "profiled" seniors pay a $100 membership each year, that would be $1,100,000 collected each year..... $300,000 MORE each year than what would be collected by a millage. The "under age 50" families would not need to subsidize the senior center. There ARE people that participate at the Senior Center who are NOT RESIDENTS. They do not pay the millages/ nor the taxes for the bond for the building, etc. More money should be collected from them to generate revenue. A bigger question: If there are almost 20,000 people eligible to use the senior center from the Township alone every day... why only 300-400 bother to come each day? How many of those 300-400 that do come are NON-residents?
7. Savoie: ON THE SAFETY PATH MILLAGE: The proposal would renew 0.48 mills and provide $1.5 million annually.
The real rate of the millage is: 0.4839 and this SAFETY PATH millage would be for five years.
This Safety Path program has been going on since 1998. This program has BANKED over $2.6 million dollars that can only be used for the safety paths. USE THAT BANKED MONEY. This issue needs more discussion.
The Safety Path millage has EXPIRED. It will not be collected in 2014 as long as the vote is NO.
IF the vote is Yes... then the program will continue for 5 more years.
The township has been discussing winter maintenance. Will the township authorize the very expensive winter shoveling? IF yes... this millage request will NEVER END... because the legal advice was... once you start shoveling... the Township must always shovel.... for liability purposes. There has been NO winter maintenance in the past... and hopefully no winter maintenance in the future. But, who knows? Given the opportunity to make a decision at a study session, the leadership chose NOT to decide the winter maintenance issue BEFORE the millage vote.
I think YOU should KNOW what the money will cover before you vote.
Also, the proposed safety paths from the master plan... need discussion at town hall meetings. Just recently, the township approved a $500,000 plus contract for a safety path... and did NOT notify the residents. Those residents found out "after the fact" that a six foot wide path and retaining walls, etc., will cross their front yard and driveway. They don't want it.... too late. This could happen to you. Vote NO.
8. Savoie: The bulk of their tax payment goes to the county, the public schools and other public institutions.
Yes, and another reason to seriously consider your VOTE for other proposals, like the SMART proposal which says renewal... but is actually an INCREASE.... also on this August 5th ballot. IF SMART passes in the tri-county area, the residents of Bloomfield Township will GIVE over $3.2 million each year.... but the BENEFITS our community receives back from SMART is currently about $90,000.
In the future, please pay attention to all the other issues put on the ballots. SCHOOLS/ZOO/DIA/SMART/.....it all adds up to money OUT of YOUR pocket....
VOTING is IMPORTANT. Please Vote August 5.... or by absentee ballot prior to that date.
Application for Absent Voter Ballot can be picked up at the Township office.
While the rest of the township is closed (except police/fire) the township clerk's office will be open on Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm the weekend BEFORE the election. Take 15 minutes of your day.... VOTE absentee... or take the time to vote on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.
I RECOMMEND A NO VOTE ON ALL ISSUES. AUGUST IS NOT THE TIME TO ASK FOR MONEY. THOSE ISSUES SHOULD BE ON A NOVEMBER EVEN YEAR BALLOT.
FOR OTHER REASONS... I STILL RECOMMEND A NO VOTE ON ALL ISSUES.
please read my archived blogs.... see right side column... June and July 2014 about millages