From former Wixom city councilman John P. Lee:
The Wixom City Council has approved the inclusion of a ballot question for the upcoming August primary (election) that requests the authority to levy up to an additional 4.98 mills for general operating expenses. The City Charter currently limits the tax levy at 8 mills. This represents a potential increase in operating taxes of over 60 percent of current authorization.
The question that should be on the minds of the voters is, “How did the city get into such a situation?” While it is true the loss of tax dollars from the Ford plant had an effect on the city’s revenue stream, the for the years up to the close in 2007, those dollars only represented approximately 11 percent of Wixom’s revenue. Even with the loss of those dollars, the city was able to establish and contribute to the budget stabilization fund while still balancing the annual budget. The real loss of revenues has been a result of the decreasing taxable value of the city’[s tax base overall. The latest numbers show a decrease of 38 percent over the economic downtown. What many residents don’t realize, because of the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A, the current taxable values are the new reality for future taxation.
The establishment of the stabilization fund was to enable the city to maintain services during a declining revenue period. It is logical to assume the city would have used the breathing room afforded by the implementation of the stabilization fund (to) take a strategic look at how services are provided to the public and to devise innovative and cost-effective alternative provision models. Sadly, this has not been the case. Rather than take concrete actions, more and more money has been taken from the stabilization fund to balance the budget without any dramatic impact to the expenditure side of the budget. Now, drastic steps such as reducing the payments toward obligated long-term benefits is (taking place), which beings the under-funding of the accounts. Proposals to stop repaying other budgets for money borrowed for capital equipment, such as a fire truck, are forwarded. Measures such as these are the beginning of the slippery slope to the assignment of emergency financial managers.
The mayor and administration proudly point to the “Wixom Way” to demonstrate the progressiveness of the community in cost-effective service provision and out-of-the-box thinking. In actuality, while there have been a few small changes in the last few years, a majority of the items listed are the hallmark of Wixom government for the last 25-plus years. Many of the ideas and concepts were championed and implemented through the efforts of past (city) councils years ago. Others, with little input by the city other than acceptance, initiated many of the “collaborations” noted. Of all the items noted, the most rankling of the list is the reduction of city staff by 18 percent. Not one of these reductions was planned or anticipated by the administration. Had these personnel not left for reasons of their own, they would still be on the Wixom payroll. The fact that the high caliber services Wixom residents enjoy did not suffer during the past seven years can only lead one to believe the city was overstaffed or ill assigned from the start.
Current operations are unsustainable and the next fiscal (year) budget for Wixom cannot be balanced without additional revenue. These facts should not be the sole justifications for an increase in taxes. The city government must proactively work to develop and provide an alternative model that recognizes the new reality of taxation. This is work that should have been seriously undertaken over the last five years. The proposal before the voters does not solve the long-term problem of funding. In reality, it only again “kicks the can down the road.” The Wixom (City) Council and administration have squandered the opportunity to address this issue afforded by the stabilization fund. There has been no new operational plan offered other than to request more money. One has to wonder if an increase in (the) millage rate will also be squandered.
I will be voting no to the increase (on Aug. 7).