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Grosse Pointe Woods to Seek Voter Approval: 1.85 Mill Hike

The Grosse Pointe Woods council will vote on the Headlee Override next week following their decision this week as the committee of the whole. They intend to ask voters for a 1.85 millage increase in November.

The committee of the whole made a decision this week regarding under the Headlee Amendment as it will exceed the amount allowed solely under council's descretion.

but has evolved in finance committee meetings and most recently in committee of the whole meetings.

The council, absent of Vicki Granger and Rich Shetler, voted informally as the committee of the whole to seek a 1.85 millage rate increase for 10 years. In addition, .

Their informal votes are essentially recommendations they pass along to the official council agenda and both issues are expected to be voted upon next week in a formal council meeting.

The millage will help the council close the more than $600,000 gap between revenue and expenses for the 2012-13 fiscal year, Woods Treasurer Dee Ann Irby has said. One mill in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget is equal to $604,872.

It will generate more than $1 million of revenue for the city in its first year. A mill equals about $600,000 in revenue for the city. For a property owner, a mill is equal to 1/1000th of a dollar so for every $1,000 of taxable value a property owners pays $1 in property tax.

The decisions the council made this week are different than where discussions began when they intended to ask voters for a 3 to 5 mill increase and did not intend to seek a dedicated road construction millage.

The Headlee Amendment requires tax rates be rolled back if state equalized property values (about half of market value) are greater than the rate of inflation.

Similar to all of the Pointes and many communities in Michigan, the tax rate  has dropped, therefore decreasing the revenue/operating budget for the city.

The plans to seek voter approval for both millage requests were met with skepticism and negativty this week.

One resident, who is not a regular attendee of council meetings, Mike Juliano said he met with city officials to discuss why they felt it necessary to seek the millage increase and he was only "so-so satisified" with their answers.

He referenced several other millages he believes will be passed at the county level and said the Woods needs to make more cuts.

He then told the council he would personally fight the millage increase with his own money and said if the officials do not have the guts to make the appropriate cuts, they should resign from office.

also questioned why documents made public before the meeting contained blanks that were filled in later. She also requested to see a copy of the exact ballot language the city intends to use, explaining she'd like to see it before the public hearing on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget next Monday.

She questions why the draft she had a copy of did not contain the words Headlee Override, saying it should be clear to voters in November that these increases are overrrides of the current millage that are beyond the scope of the council's power.

Additionally, she requested that the 2012-13 fiscal year proposed budget be posted on the city's website for easier review by residents, to which she was told it was unlikely to happen. She said the massive three-ring binder that is available for public viewing at the front desk of city hall is not conducive or welcoming for residents to actually get into the details of the budget.

Mayor Robert Novitke said the proposed budget would be a part of the council packet for next Monday's meeting and that Pinkos Howle would not be recieving information before the council regarding the budget.

Pinkos Howle said she was not trying to obtain information earlier than the council but in order for residents to truly provide feedback during the budget public hearing, the information needs to be more easily accessible. She offered to help scan in the pages so they could be posted. Then Novitke instructed Dee Ann Irby to "not engage in dialog with" Pinkos Howle.

The city does have budget information on its website but it is out of date and does not include the level of detail of the three-ring binder. It has the 2010-11 budget with previous years leading up to it online.

Resident and former councilman Pete Waldmeir also urged the council to have better communication with its residents, explaining the communication is lacking at best currently.

told the council to form a study committee to review finances of the city and determine whether a Headlee Overrride is truly necessary. The suggestion is late, he said, but late is better than never.

The council is scheduled to meet again Monday May 21, during which they will host the public hearing on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget and are expected to formally approve ballot language for the millage requests of voters in November.

Jim Schultz May 16, 2012 at 04:15 PM
I will be voting NO on these tax increases. I encourage our residents to gather more facts and then make a similar informed decision.
Lisa Pinkos Howle May 16, 2012 at 04:16 PM
We the residents will be posting the budget book in its entirety today. The City Council could have done this very easily on the City Website with its expensive equipment but they refused. Transparency? Please review the budget book and suggest cuts. I've reviewed only 9 pages so far and I'm up to $52,794.00. NONE of my suggested cuts TOUCH city services. We need to come together as a City to correct these errors in spending. Thank you.
Chris K May 16, 2012 at 05:34 PM
The Budget Hearings of Local Governments was written in 1963 when most people were just beginning to get used to electric typewriters. Do you think the 2012/2013 budget for any of the Grosse Pointes was prepared on a typewriter? I bet the budget has many line items for technology across the board but when it comes to transparency and giving residents the opportunity to see what is going on in the most accessible medium (INTERNET) there are a myriad of excuses provided. Seems to me that our representatives in the state legislature should take the initiative to update the legislation but in the mean time maybe voters need to make sure that the tax dollars available for technology are consistent with the age of the IBM Selectric!
Lisa Pinkos Howle May 17, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Without affecting any City services, I have come up with $1,020,194 in spending cuts so far. That's double the budget deficit. Prove me wrong if you can. Please plan to attend the public hearing on May 21st at City Hall. We need you to get involved. Even if this council does not agree with half of my suggested cuts, they can still balance the budget without a tax increase. NO HEADLEE OVERRIDE.
Joseph Sucher May 17, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Thanks for repeating your budget review... for about the third year in a row. I've seen your suggestions in past years. They made sense then and make even more sense today in this economic downturn. In the private sector, successfull businesses react to economic distress by among other things reigning in unecessary expenditures. Some are significant, others more symbolic, but all show a committment to balancing expenditures to revenues. I look forward to seeing your list. I hope you post them here. In the meantime what kind of structural changes might have a positive impact on operational efficiency. I believe the City missed an opportunity by not bringing in the efficiency expert to review both what work is being done, and how it is being done. City leaders must make some fundemental changes. It's neither easy, nor popular. But..... so what. Look at Governor Walker of Wisconsin. He did just that. Governor Snyder is also making some bold moves, some not so popular. Times are changing, businesses and governments need to adapt. The old days are not coming back.
Chris May 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Lisa - if you could make your list of suggested cuts available via the web, it may help people get a sense of where our tax dollars are being spent. Like you said, even if people don't agree with 1/2 your suggested cuts, there is still alot that can be done.
Robert Lee May 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Woods Voters: Do not be suckered like the Shores voters were by voting for a Headlee overide. We were clearlly told the 20 mil Headlee override provision in the new Shores charter was just for dire future emergencies "like if the Ambassador Bridge gets blown up. Now after our new council just voted yet another millage increase, the 3rd in the very short history of our city, Shores taxes are all the way up to roughly 18.5 mils. Giving officials Headlee override power removes the pressure for them to have to do their homework and make the tough decisions that need to be made. It will also make negotiations with your civic unions more difficult, as they and the arbitrators both know their is an untapped pot of taxpayer's hard earmed money waiting to be had. Shores taxpayers have been fleeced by our Headlee override. Don't make the same mistake!
Arthur B. May 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
In many ways, the Woods is actually the most transparent of the GP's by customarily posting the most information on its website. So you have to admire the audacity of the council's millage campaign. 1. Council asks voters for a Headlee Override saying it is necessary to cover a budget shortfall. 2. The finance department creates a budget document and inserts divider tabs. 3. The city says the budget document cannot be posted on the internet because the presence of the tabs prevents feeding the budget through a scanner and it would be too hard to remove the tabs that had been inserted. 4. The voters do not want to inconvenience the finance department, and so the voters vote in favor of approving the millage without seeing the budget shortfall that necessitates the Headlee Override.
Jeanne M. Diesing May 17, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I want to have the proposed budget scanned and available online, for each and every Grosse Pointe Woods Resident and Business Owner. We need this 2012-2013 Budget in its entirety, so we can make an informed vote on whether a Headlee Amendment Override is necessary. Jeanne Diesing
Frank Smith May 17, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Katie you are smart not to buy in the Shores watch some of our council meetings, they are great fun. Everyone is an expert in something but know little about municipal govt. Take Robert Lee, he would have you believe that the Shores is near the Headlee Max. but Headlee is computed on the operating tax rate which is 11.86 this year with a 20 mill cap that leaves 8.14 mills before they max. out but what would he know he just a MD or so called
Chris K May 17, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Jeanne Diesing: If you look at the BLOG post on Patch for 2012/2013 Grosse Pointe Woods budget you will be able to access the version residents made by scanning the pages of the budget book at city hall. While Grosse Pointe Woods is certainly abiding by the letter of the law by making the draft budget available to review at their office during their business hours,there is a question of the spirit of transparency that comes with a government that wants the people to see what they are doing.
ray May 17, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I will not vote for 10 year override. Three years should be enough.
Don Holman May 17, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Mr. Lee, this is the council you supported and voted for so the increase is just as much your fault as it is your tax and spend council friends. Can't recall an increase this large in that city in the past 20 years.
Gloria May 17, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I will vote NO on any additional taxes... they already increased my SEV and taxable value this year. I challenged them and they refused to decrease.... they will not get a dime more from me if I can help it! I posted the budget online so others can view the waste ... http://grossepointe.patch.com/blog_posts/2012-13-grosse-pointe-woods-draft-budget There is a jpg file index and 9 .pdf files. The PATCH limits .pdf files to 10 megs so I had to load in sections.
David Hensley May 17, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I will be voting no. I do not like the way the Council seems to not be cooperating with public demands for more transparency and seriously looking at other means to avoid increasing taxes. I, like another person earlier, feel we will be driving away people from moving and opening businesses here due to an increased tax rate. Other costs will be rising as well, like water, gas (natural & fuel), electric, food, health care, insurance, etc. So, we do not need any other increases in expenses/taxes if we can avoid them. Seemingly, there are ways to keep current services and not raise taxes. The city may not be able to take on big projects right now that we as a city may want to, but I can't take that dream vacation, or buy that new expensive car, or do renovation to my home that I want either. I have to settle for a cheaper car, or a trip to a local attraction or park, and do little fixes to the home. These are choices we have to make that may be tough but should be made, just as our elected officials should. I commend them for their service as council members, but I don't agree with their decision on this and again I will be voting no! Next year, if they want a special millage, get the word out early and online for all to see and read over to consider, then maybe, but no Headlee Override. That is too open door for me.
Lisa Pinkos Howle May 17, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Well said Mr. Hensley.
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods May 20, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Well said, all of you who will VOTE NO ON HEADLEE OVERRIDE! Many of us are not merely voting no, we're asking the tough questions and taking the unpopular (with the city council and administration, anyway) public stance against this ridiculous bailout blank check tax increase. Want to join us? Check out our website for how to help.
Anthony J May 22, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Posting where?
Anthony J May 22, 2012 at 06:06 PM
What website Pete?
Tom Pietrowsky May 29, 2012 at 05:22 PM
My wife and I will be moving to GP Woods in a few weeks. I will definitely vote no on any millage increase in November.

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