By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE — The City Council voted to maintain the 10-mill police and fire special assessment and increase the residents’ recycling rates after considering options to eliminate $500,000 from the city’s budget deficit.
The 10-mill special assessment is used to pay for police and fire services provided by the city, City Administrator Jim Beri said, and levies about $1.29 million a year. A portion of the assessment will assist in the fire consolidation payments to the city of Dearborn, he said, and the city may address changing the special assessment after the consolidation gains speed.
This levy is not in addition to taxes the residents pay, Beri said, and is already incorporated into tax bills the residents receive.
The city’s population, which is under 10,700 residents, allows for the council to levy special assessments without proposing a millage that would have to be voted on by residents, he said, but the council is required to address the assessment every year.
Councilwoman Medina Balderas said the special assessment cannot be the only way the city generates money if it wants to continue with the deficit elimination plan, and the city must look for help from its residents. She proposed the council increase the rate for the city’s recycling program because the city cannot afford to subsidize services provided to residents anymore.
“This may seem like a menial change,” she said, “But, the city has to eliminate $500,000 from the budget and this could be a start in reaching that number.”
The proposal, which increases the rate to each resident by $3 a quarter, was passed by a council vote of 5-1. Councilman Dave Cybulski was the only member to vote against the increase.
He said the increase would punish the 80 percent of residents who don’t use the service and the council should be looking into renegotiating the contracts with the recycling companies.
The city has been charging each resident $6 a quarter for a recycling program that costs $8 per resident to operate, Balderas said, and she would like to see the city charge an amount that can sustain the program without city subsidization.
“I don’t know why the rate was never changed, maybe to help out the residents,” she said “But, now we need your help. We need to find money and I’m just trying to come up with solutions, whether it be extra taxes or not.”
If the costs for services rise, Councilman Carl Louvet said in support of Balderas’ proposed increase, then it is not a punishment to residents to have to match the rising rate, while continuing to provide that service. He cited the Aug. 12 water rate hike as a good example, because the last time Detroit raised the cost of providing water to the city, the council did not set a rate to match that, and said the water fund is now in “big trouble.”
“If they started this (program) and it cost $2 a month and now it costs the city of Melvindale $3 a month,” Louvet said, “I don’t look at it as punishing our citizens. The costs went up and it is a service we pay for on behalf of the citizens.”
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])