Friday, February 28, 2014

"Missing Revenue" in the PROPOSED 2014-15 Township Budget

Hi All,
Please read this article by Lisa Brody,  from Downtown Publications  concerning the Special Study Session that was held at 8 AM  on February 24, 2014..... concerning 4 expired millages. 

THEN....... from me....
"Missing Revenue"  in the PROPOSED 2014-15 budget... Because 4 millages EXPIRED in Dec. 2013
Here are some other facts not mentioned in this article...and some of my opinions....  on the proposed 4 millages.... THAT EXPIRED in DEC. 2013..... and I guess the township is ASSUMING in the proposed budget for 2014-15  ....that ALL the money will be there in Dec. 2014.  I'm not so sure.  I'm voting NO in August 2014.... for many reasons.   November elections is the time to put these millages on the ballot.

1.  The township is proposing a "balanced budget" for 2014-15 beginning April 1, 2014... except... the township is  WITHOUT the revenue stated for the FOUR  expired millages at this timeHow can they propose/approve a budget that does not have the revenue stated?  How can they do that?  Savoie said that if the millages failed in Aug. 2014, the township has enough money in reserves to meet the proposed budget.   How much money does the township have in reserves?  Perhaps it's time to use some.

2.  The township has over the years... not spent all the safety path millage money collected....even though the budget suggests that it was spent. Instead, the township has banked $2.6 MILLION dollars in a special safety path fund.  Had the township used the money when collected, perhaps the safety path master plan would be already finished.  I think we should vote NO on a safety path millage.... let the trustees spend the existing $2.6 DEDICATED  MONEY  for the remaining safety path construction and maintenance.

3.  IF the township decides to plow the safety paths in the winter... the cost will be substantial... over $200,000 at least and much higher if another winter like this year.  ALSO, the liability to the township is much it was stated that if the township does not plow... then the township does not have certain liabilities.  Insurance costs will definitely increase.  How well could safety paths be kept clean of snow and ice?  Think especially at the driveways and those paths close enough to the road to get road snow thrown over the paths?   The talk was that the township would bid this job to a private contractor.  Can't imagine the risk and cost.
This is another reason to VOTE NO on a safety path ballot issue.  The trustees don't seem to know how they want to spend the money.  They are not sure of the liability and costs.  They need to hold Town Hall type public meetings  BEFORE  assuming anything and asking for money.

 4.  The talk of including ROAD REPAIR into the safety path millage is ridiculous, in my opinion.  We currently have a  just under $4 MILLION dollar road department budget per year. You have been paying a special road millage for the past decades ...collecting recently over $2.3 Million of your tax dollars annually and the Trustees have been taking almost another $1 million out of the general fund for the road department... and Oakland County gives the township $600,000 of YOUR gas taxes that would have been used by them for our township roads.  Bloomfield Township is the only township in Michigan that has its own Road Department and agreement with the county.  So after decades of this expensive road department... how are the township roads?   It was said at the Special meeting that the road department spent $400,000 on road repair this past year.  WHAT?  That's it?  Out of a $4 Million budget?  see the township budget.      The suggestion was that the proposed Safety Path/ROAD millage would be able to give $500,000 each year to the road department. WHY?  Would this millage also give the $2.6 million  BANKED reserves of the safety path past millages for road repair?    The township is currently making major efforts to get every subdivision to repave all their roads.  Some costs are as high as $17,000 per household.  Not everyone is happy about this. Why give the Township more money for roads?  How many different ways will the township try to get YOUR money for roads?  ANY SAFETY PATH millage that also has the word ROADS  in the heading or anywhere in the ballot should be voted NO.  Don't mix the two different "wants"... my opinion.  This millage is not needed.

5.  The senior services millage was first approved in August 2004 for 10 years.  The MAJOR PROBLEM was that the township NEVER officially notified the public that it was on the ballot.  That 2004 ballot issue was to give a PRIVATE organization the millage money to do senior services.  The money went to the Greater Bloomfield Seniors operating out of the Bloomfield Hills Schools.  Two Township trustees sat on that organization's board to recommend the ballot language  and then sat on the township board to approve the ballot language. Such a conflict of interest!
Talk about a STEALTH ballot issue.  I didn't know that a municipality could ask for millage money from the taxpayers for a PRIVATE organization.  But Bloomfield Township did just that.   Then Senior Services expanded from there.  The organization eventually became a department of the township.... costs went from a self sustaining $300,000/ year group.... to, at one time,  an almost $2 MILLION dollar/ year budget.  Add in the bond costs for a completely new building and we are talking major taxpayer money. 
I DID NOT HEAR SAVOIE SAY IF THE MILLAGE FAILS THAT THE SENIOR CENTER WOULD SHUT DOWN.  But that does sound like scare tactics.  I could go on and on about how the township could reduce the other ways. Senior Services has other funding beside millage dollars.    Meals on Wheels/ has outside funding.  We pay a SMART millage for transportation .  We have grants for home improvements. Friendship Club charges a daily fee.  Does it cover the costs for service?    More.... other ways seniors get funding.....paying for the trips and classes offered.  Plus, we have terrific volunteers...   Check out the budget.... how much is collected in taxes and how much goes to wages/health benefits/pensions.

6.The Public Safety millages... more seemingly scare tactics.  The statement in this article that quoted that the money would NOT be used for vehicles... can not be true, unless that is written in the ballot language.   Did you know that the trustees just voted to BUY a ladder fire  truck for over $600,000.... and there is NO MONEY in the budget approved for that purchase?  That truck will arrive in one year after being specially built for the township.  Approving a purchase without funds did not phase the trustees one bit.... unanimous approval.  So again I ask... how much money does the township have in reserves.... that they don't blink for a $600,000 plus purchase not in the budget?

7.  The public safety  fund got an almost $4 MILLION dollar  annual boost in 2010 February GENERAL OBLIGATION ballot issue for 1.3 mills for 10 years.  So, as taxpayers... we have that tax obligation PLUS 4 more public safety millages.... each time seemingly scaring all of you that your house will burn down or you will be violated in your own home by criminals.   Will we go to Oakland County Sheriff department for protection?  GOOD GUYS... but not needed. What is so scary about getting a private ambulance with experienced paramedics?  The township uses them when they are busy on other runs.  The township keeps needing more and more money NOT for services... but to continually try to pay for the unsustainable costs negotiated/granted for the employees wages/ health benefits and pensions.

8.  What the township NEVER seems to talk about is making these proposed millages just a general obligation millage.    Did you know that when a millage is approved for A CERTAIN PURPOSE.... the money collected may ONLY be spent for that purpose?   If it is a general obligation millage... the trustees can decide WHERE IN THE BUDGET  the money collected is most needed.  If the township needs to downsize certain departments and if the MONEY collected was in a GENERAL OBLIGATION millage that money may go for ANY obligations...such as bond payments or other bills.

9.  All the employees got a 2% raise in April 2013.  The six year contract may be reopened for wages in 2015.  Many employees still have a township paid vehicle...that is never bought/approved at a township public meeting nor shown in the budget as to who uses the vehicle.  The township (legally) "opts out" of a state law that would require employees to pay more for their health insurance.  The township recent BOND sale/ investment for underfunded pensions... has issues... that remain, in my opinion, something that needs more investigating and transparency.
10.  Just remember.... Supervisor Savoie said at the Special Meeting... that the township has enough money in RESERVES to meet the proposed budget, even if the millages FAIL.   OK.   I will vote NO on any millage that is specified for any particular project/department.   IF MY TOWNSHIP needs operating funds.... put the millage on the ballot as GENERAL OBLIGATION millage.... and then make the trustees make the hard the decisions on what services are really NEEDED and pay those bills.   
My opinion.
Marcia Robovitsky