Talks of what will be on November’s ballot for Dearborn voters are heating up amongst Dearborn City Council members, as the deadline approaches for the approval of ballot language.
A meeting on Monday afternoon at City Hall proved to be the first concrete look at what residents might be voting on this fall, including adding 3.5 to 5 mills to taxpayers’ loads, with a sunset provision, and asking residents what the “essential services” really are in Dearborn.
Public discussions of a millage increase have been happening since as early as April, but council members and Mayor Jack O’Reilly have not yet agreed on how many mills the ballot proposal will ask for.
Councilwoman Nancy Hubbard saw it as all or nothing. “Let’s go for the full five (mills),” she said Monday.
In dollar amounts, five mills on an approximately $100,000 household would mean about $270 per year above what taxpayers are paying out now, which Hubbard pointed out would not be that much spread out over several payments.
But Councilman David Bazzy said he believes the council should be more cautious in what they ask for.
“I don’t know anybody in the city that thinks they’re not paying too much in taxes right now,” Bazzy said. “It’s a dangerous roulette wheel to go for the five mills. It’s a situation where people don’t really trust public servants anymore. They don’t trust that we’ve … done the best job in managing their money over time.
“It’s a significant amount of money for an average person who feels that their house is overtaxed already.”
Whatever the measure asks for, the ballot initiative will likely not identify specific funding categories that the mills will go toward.
Instead, Mayor O’Reilly proposed that voters be presented with advisory questions on the ballot, asking them to identify what the “essential activities” are in Dearborn, such as pools, libraries, leaf pickup and recreational services.
The advisory results would not be binding, but would be used by the City Council to determine where the pool of millage funds would be used to best serve residents.
“You’re simply asking the people who show up and vote what’s their opinion on their issues, and that becomes guidance,” O’Reilly said. “I don’t think there’s a better way to test what people think.”
At this point, everything is still very much up in the air. The brief Monday afternoon meeting is tentatively set to reconvene on July 12, though no official meeting notice has been posted.
Ballot language is supposed to be turned in to the state by July 8, but Attorney General Bill Schuette has given Dearborn the go-ahead to take an additional few weeks to come up with their concrete proposal.
The city will need full approval from Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder in August to officially place the questions on the November ballot.