Keeping the grass roots growing!!
LAPEER — Lapeer voters will have an opportunity Nov. 7 to ensure there is sufficient funding to repair and rebuild residential streets. That’s when residents will go to the polls to decide a 2-mill road proposal for a period of six years.
The Lapeer City Commission on Monday unanimously approved the ballot proposal, the same night officials approved the city’s 2017-2018 operating budget of approximately $9.7 million. The commission held a public hearing on the budget, though no one commented on the city’s spending plans for the coming budget year that begins July 1.
The proposed millage will raise approximately $500,000 per year, or $3 million over the six-year life of the millage.
Also on the Nov. 7 ballot in Lapeer, Mayor Bill Sprague and Commission Elaine Gates are up for re-election. Terms of office are four years.
In November 2015 Lapeer residents narrowly defeated a 2-mill road millage proposal by 17 votes — 527-510. Lapeer officials are hopeful for better results this fall on what has been a frequent complaint by residents and areas motorists, and that’s the condition of the city’s residential streets — including a few that are still gravel with no curbs.
The Lapeer City Commission held a budget workshop May 2 at which time officials extracted $293,000 from the 2017-2018 budget to roll into local streets this year. The exercise, while successful to set aside some money for more crack sealing and micro-seal work on streets, was uncomfortable for several officials who expressed frustration they had to unfund other budget priorities and suggestions that included a seasonal outdoor ice rink at Annrook Park and directional signs to steer residents and visitors to key attractions in the community.
Lapeer, like other municipalities, used to be able to count on regular revenue sharing checks coming from the State of Michigan — but that money has become less and less, and without it reduces money available to apply to local street projects.
Lapeer City Manager Dale Kerbyson said the reduced revenue sharing has meant the city coffers have seen nearly $4 million less over the last 10 years.
The loss of revenue sharing from the state, coupled with state law that eliminated personal property taxes marked an additional decrease in revenue to the city.
State shared revenue decreased by 15 percent between 2004 and 2011 for the City of Lapeer. Also, property taxes dropped 35 percent between the years 2008- 2014 to reduce the city property tax revenue.
If funding had stayed the same as it was in 2001, the City of Lapeer should have received an additional $5.4 million over the last 15 years. This is roughly a 30 percent loss in revenue.
Commissioner Joshua Atwood, while he voted for the November road millage proposal, said the city shouldn’t “keep a closed mind” to new attractions and events for citizens to enjoy such as an ice rink. While at a recent EcoTourism summit, Atwood said the city could benefit from offering bike or kayak rentals to the public to bring more people into the community.
Following the summit Kerbyson approached representatives from several of the city’s TIFA (Tax Increment Finance Authority) districts who indicated an interest to finance the new recreational opportunities. “The bike rentals will probably happen sooner because it’s easier to do,” Kerbyson said.
The city commission was in agreement following its budget workshop that the City of Lapeer needed to secure longterm financing for local streets so that it can continue to offer new and enriched city services at the same time.
If Lapeer voters in November approve the 2-mill road millage proposal it will suspend the city’s current practice of charging special assessments to property owners whose street is slated for improvements in which they pay a portion of the overall cost of the project.
This year’s three city street projects in Lapeer, a rehab project to a section of DeMille Road as well as reconstruction to portions of Court and Calhoun streets all include special assessments charged to homeowners and businesses along the roadways.