Like a pride of ostriches that has their heads firmly embedded in the sand, the Grosse Pointe Woods city council refuses to recognize a $1.2 million-a-year Headlee Override general fund tax increase as a Headlee Overide, presumably hoping that it will go away and nobody will notice.
The headline on the ballot language that was approved unanimously by the 6 present members of Woods' council Monday evening (May 21) before a properly raucous crowd of opponents describes the 1.85 mill, $1.2 million-a-year general fund tax gold mine they want simply as a "Millage Proposal," money to be used any way they decide. In a separate action, the council will ask for a $10 million "Road Improvement Bonding Proposition" when voters go to the polls on Nov. 6.
Incidentally, Council Member Vickie Granger was absent - again - from both vitally important tax increase discussions and votes.
The words "Headlee Override" will not be allowed anywhere in the ballot proposal, the council agreed. The override calls for a 1.85 mill, $1.2 million-a-year general fund tax increase. If passed by the voters, however, the 2.14 mill $10 million road repair prop and the 1.85 mill general fund levy prop will push citizens' property taxes a huge 4 mills above the legal Headlee limit.
If both pass, that's $400 a year in additional tax on each $100,000 of a resident's taxable property value for at least 10 years - and probably for an unspecified number of more years, too. There's no such thing as a temporary tax.
The Woods' PR flacks don't total it up for you like that, of course. You pay the Woods administration handsome salaries and perks, but they don't have time to make stuff like this easy for you to understand. They're too busy trying to figure out ways to misdirect you with confusing ballot language.
So much for transparency in the elected and appointed government of the largest of the five Grosse Pointes.
Why not just tell taxpayers the truth? If you ask me, Mayor Bob Novitke and his six council cronies are afraid that if they are upfront with the taxpayers about how much blank check bailout tax money they are asking citizens to cough up to help them cover their mistakes and mismanagement over the years, they'd face a humiliating defeat on Nov. 6.
As it stands, because of Monday night's council vote, it now is imperative for Woods' taxpayers to be alert, ask questions and don't take the mayor and the council's shrugs for an answer - if, indeed, the leader of his secretive and irresponsible gang of ostriches allows any answers at all.
What's wrong with slapping the label "Headlee Override" on a proposal that clearly is a Headlee Override? Well, to Mayor Novitke et al that would make it much too easy for voters to understand and refuse. When voters fully realize what they are being asked to pay for, you understand, they're harder to trap in a game of bait-and-switch like a Headlee Override.
So the administration's motto is: Give 'em the "mushroom" treatment. Keep 'em in the dark and open the door occasionally and throw some gunk on 'em.
Is it legal to present this $1.2 million a year tax hike without explaining in layman's terms that it's an "override" of the Headlee Amendment, which caps local property taxes unless voters agree to "override" the limit? Get this.
As if the city isn't paying enough for in-house contracted lawyers (the brothers Don and Chip Berschback take about $200,000 a year plus Don's fully-paid $15,000-a-year health care out of the so-called "dwindling" general fund), the city leadership had to go outside to a bond attorney named Peter McGow, of the Detroit law firm Miller Canfield, and pay him to write a memo telling them it's just fine to ignore the term "Headlee Override" in the $1.2 million a year excess tax proposal.
Money talks, right?
You don't have to call a Headlee Override a Headlee Override, McGow advised. Just put a lot of underlined legalese gobblydgook in the proposal that describes it as being tax money "...in exceess of the limitation imposed by the Headlee Amendment..." blah blah blah. And if the voters are dumb enough not to ask if that really means it's a Headlee Override, well, that's their tough luck.
Incidentally, guess who'll handle at least part of the bond counseling for the Headlee Override, plus the $10 million for road construction bonding if both proposals pass?
No! You gotta be kidding!
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If you really want to keep up with the latest "Grosse Pointe Woods Truth" about this "Headlee Override" ripoff of your tax money there'll be plenty more from my blog during the five-month countdown to the November 6 vote. Register to vote. Apply now for an absentee ballot. Vote NO. It ain't over 'til it's over. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.