West Bloomfield Township will ask its residents to vote during the township’s Tuesday, Nov. 8 election on a 10-year renewal of the township’s existing public safety millage at its current rate of 3.1378 mills, as well as an 11-year increase of 2.85 mills, in two separate ballot questions.
A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value. The owner of a township property with a taxable value of $100,000 ($200,000 market value) currently pays $313.78 a year in property taxes for public safety services and would continue to pay that amount if the existing millage is renewed. If the increase is also approved, that same owner would pay an additional $285 a year.
West Bloomfield Fire Chief Jay Wiseman and Police Chief Michael Patton said the public safety personnel unions made concessions as far back as 2009 and 2010, even though they weren’t contractually obligated to do so.
Wiseman said the West Bloomfield Fire Department has undertaken a variety of cost savings measures over the last five years and is trying to do more with less. He said those measures have included reducing staff by 12 positions while also eliminating and consolidating different positions, redistributing and restructuring workloads, privatizing or outsourcing services, and reducing overtime costs by 61 percent.
Wiseman added that the department has lowered the township’s ISO rating from a Class 9, which is near the worst, to a Class 4, as well as downsized its EMS vehicles and replaced two outdated fire engines with two “quint” fire vehicles.
“The previous investments in the millages have paid direct dividends,” Wiseman said. “Essentially, we feel the fire department has been a good investment for the community, one that continues to provide high quality services and direct savings on real service dollars.”
He added that since 2008, the township’s taxable values have fallen approximately 33 percent.
“You take the combination of that and the reality of the Headlee Amendment, and when you put our final budget numbers together, we’re essentially 20 percent short,” Wiseman said. “The (proposed millage) increase is representative of maintaining services, not increasing them. The renewal itself is representative of about 45 percent of our operating budget and the increase would be representative of about 20 percent.”
Wiseman said the fire department provides services out of six locations, including EMS transport.
He added that the department’s call volume experiences 4 to 7 percent growth every year.
Patton said the police department has 10 fewer officers today compared to just a few years ago, due to retirement and attrition.
“We’re just striving to maintain our service levels that we have right now, we’re not looking to expand,” Patton said. “We have many command officers that are wearing more than one hat. We don’t have a deputy chief and we have two less lieutenants and one less sergeant position.
“Our crime rates are relatively low and the police want to maintain the kind of response level and investigative services and the other things that we do that add value that people in our community hope and expect they can get,” he added.
According to Patton, the West Bloomfield Police Department has the ability to track down criminals and go out and be a very proactive department.
“We respect our citizens enough to know that we’re stewards of their money and that we’re spending those dollars well for their benefit.”