On Election Day, Dearborn residents that will increase their taxes, but also help close up the .
Proposal 1, passed Tuesday with 60 percent of the vote based on unofficial results tallied Tuesday night, will allow the city to levy up to an additional 3.5 mills on residents for no more than five years. Proposal 2, also passed with 60 percent of the vote, will levy one mill for up to 10 years, dedicated specifically to funding the Dearborn Public Library system.
The mood for city leaders on Tuesday night was generally positive, though some pointed out that there is much more work to be done.
Mayor Jack O’Reilly, for one, was elated at the outcome.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” he said.
“This is, in my mind, an acknowledgement that the majority of people in Dearborn believe in the message and believe in the work of the Task Force,” O’Reilly added.
The Community Task Force, in their Vision 2016 recommendations released last November, suggested that the city increase the millage rate to the maximum allowed under the City Charter, as well as ask voters to approve another increase.
The former move was made as part of . But the voter-approved increase was a battle O’Reilly said he knew all along would be hard to win.
“The people weren’t for it–I understand that,” he said Tuesday night. “I always knew this was going to be a tough vote. But it came out very well, and I’m happy.”
Also happy–but cautiously so–was City Council President Tom Tafelski, who has , as well as address minimum staffing issues for the police and fire departments, in addition to asking residents to pay more.
“I’m cautiously optimistic because … even if the council takes (the millage increase) to the maximum amount allowed, we’re still $8.5 million in the hole,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done through consolidation, through changing programs, the service mix–that type of thing.”
“Those are all things that will have to be addressed,” he added.
Throughout the budget process and up to Election Day, Tafelski and other city leaders have fought misconceptions that a vote for higher taxes would mean the end to cutting or consolidating city services.
Nowhere has that been stressed more than with Dearborn’s public library system. Director Maryanne Bartles reiterated Tuesday that the passage of the library millage and the general operating millage are not going to result in the , nor does it guarantee the future of the system’s other two branches, and .
“I don’t have a crystal ball, and while I can present a budget and talk about strategic plans for the library, it is the City Council that has to make those very, very difficult choices,” she said. “I can only hope that with the potentially $3.5 million, City Council can find additional funding to maintain the other two branches.”
Still, Bartles said she was “pleased” with the passage of both proposals.
“I’m really pleased that for the next 10 years, (the library has) some stability in our funding and can make more concrete plans because of that,” she said. “And the fact that Proposal 1 passed as well just puts more stability in the entire city. We have that breathing room to say, ‘What are our priorities and how can we move forward effectively?’”
O’Reilly, for one, said he’s up to the task.
“I’ve been given an incredible opportunity as an administrator,” he said. “People said, ‘We have faith. You make it work.’
"My goal is going to be to make it work.”
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