|William Mazzara is the director of facility design and construction for the Henry Ford Health System. A member of the Milford Methodist Church, scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop No. 172 and chairman of the Friends of Milford Skate Park Committee, Mazzara served on the township board for 12 years and the township Planning Commission for 3 years. He also spent 8 years on the Milford Parks and Recreation Commission.|
Six candidates — Randal Busick, Kevin Lawrence, William E. Mazzara, Anthony Raimondo, Dale R. Wiltse, and Brien R. Worrell — are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election for one of four trustee spots on the Milford Township Board of Trustees. Since there are no Democrats running in the primary election for a trustee position, the top four vote-getters will earn a four-year term on the township board that pays $150 per meeting.
The following are questions we recently posed to Mazzara, and his responses to those questions.
BUDGET: All municipal governments in Michigan have faced difficult budget scenarios over the past few years, as declines in property values have produced a revenue stream that can’t keep up with various rising costs. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
MAZZARA: My main objective is to continue to maintain a financially sound community.
If the current economic projection were to take another downswing, we will have to continue to procure services at less cost in order to maintain our stable financial condition. Reduce the budget for non-essential services such as Parks and Recreation, travel, education, training and office hours. I would consider these areas as opportunity for reduction in order to preserve our essential service such as police and fire.
Even in good times I do not believe any area of the budget is ever off the table when it comes to financial justification. As I have indicated, I would look to preserve the essential services police and fire.
TAX ABATEMENTS: A few years ago the township board rejected a request from a business seeking to extend an existing nine-year tax abatement for another three years, creating a 12-year abatement. The request was nixed due to the township’s own fiscal challenges and uncertainty at that time. With property values at or near the bottom of the trough, when would you be comfortable granting new or extending any existing tax abatement agreements?
MAZZARA: I have never been comfortable with tax abatements. In Milford, I do not see a direct benefit to our revenue that outweighs or equals the loss. It is difficult to rescind the abatement agreement if the promises made do not come to fruition. I am now more skeptical of these types of tax abatements. Due to what appears to be the current position of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, companies are able to secure a drop in their taxable value even if they have tax abatement in place without township approval or involvement — for example, GM and others. This is a state trend to offload the burden of responsibility on the residents and makes it very difficult to forecast revenue compared to operational costs.
A UNIFIED MILFORD: The idea of somehow merging Milford Township and Milford Village is an issue that crops up every few years. If you’re opposed to any kind of merger, please justify maintaining two separate municipalities given the level of consolidation and shared services already in place and the potential for saving taxpayer dollars through a complete consolidation. If you are open to a merger, state whether you prefer merging under the city form of local government, or dissolving the village and making it part of the township.
MAZZARA: I have always been in favor of finding ways for the village and the township to work together as one community. I think there is savings in merging into one form of local government.
I do not see a lot of benefit in cityhood. I am not in favor of any tax increase as a result of a new structure.
Every time this comes up, I hear the reasons why this won’t work. But I have never seen any real data supporting a decision. The joint subcommittee should be reconvened and assigned the task of assembling all of the facts. Establish the pros and cons and then present it to the (village) council and the (township) board. I would be willing to coordinate this effort.
Any discussion about dissolving the village governance structure is not a township issue. This is an issue to be resolved by the village.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
MAZZARA: Issue No. 1: It is to maintain a strong financial community. When the economy started its downward slide, I suggested to the board to put together a forecasting tool that compares revenue to operational costs. Under the guidance of our treasurer, we now have a tool in place that allows us to make adjustments to spending on a timely basis. This is controlling your budget and establishing the facts necessary to make decisions.
The current administration has maintained a stable economic outlook during bad times. I will continue to insist that services purchased by township are competitively bid. Concentrate on our core services. Stay out of debt. Do not get involved in risk-based opportunities. Live within our means and try to save something into the general fund.
Issue No. 2: I would maintain the current atmosphere of Milford Township. During my 23 years of service on the Planning Commission, my goal was to maintain the township as a semi-rural community with a strong downtown district. Until the downturn, the economy in Milford was targeted by many developers as the place to be. The only problem was that they didn’t always want to do what was best for our community as a whole. They often looked to what was best for them.
I have held strong to our Master Land Use Plan, which was created to ensure that growth in Milford is controlled and the atmosphere is preserved. In 2008, I was a proponent for the township and the village to work together jointly to create a common master plan. This plan was adopted by both the village and the township. This is one of the few throughout the country where two governments worked together to create a master plan with common objectives. Even during these times of low growth, I have been diligent in my effort to preserve our culture. Planning decisions have long-term impact.
Issue No. 3: The real challenge will be to maintain a stable financial condition as the economy starts to rebound. Through my professional life and the 12 years as a trustee, I am experienced in managing to a budget. I realize the current pressures on the budget are not just a temporary condition and hoping for “what it used to be” is not an option. I will continue to work in conjunction with the board and to live within our means and look for opportunities.
As the economy rebounds I am concerned that inflation will outpace the township’s ability to generate revenue by increased property values. Economic forecasts for Oakland County indicate that there will be a 3 percent drop in property values in 2013 and then start a slow recovery. Any significant recovery would be capped by the Headlee Amendment. This is a good thing.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
MAZZARA: I believe you have to give back. Milford is a wonderful community and without the support of its residents, it might just become another community. What makes me well positioned to serve as trustee is that I am involved in the community through various activities. This in turn gives me the opportunity to listen to the concerns of the residences.
In 12 years as trustee I have always been an advocate of maintaining a healthy, economically viable township. Even though these have been hard times, we have been successful in maintaining a financially strong township. I believe this is done by focusing on the core services and not getting involved in risk-type opportunities.
Through my 23 years of involvement with the Planning Commission I, along with the other commissioners, have been able to preserve the atmosphere of the township. This was accomplished during a time of extreme growth pressure. Development has slowed now, but I will remain strong in administering our master plan. Planning decisions have long-term impact. They cannot be made for a short-term gain
In my professional life as an architect and director of facilities, I am responsible for the planning and implementing (of) projects of varying size and costs. This responsibility includes managing a budget and being able to anticipate and plan for unforeseen issues while staying on budget.