By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE — After three resolutions and another reconsideration, residents will get the chance to vote on the general operating millage in May.
The council voted 5-1 for a 3-mill, five-year proposal to go before the voters. Councilman Ted Micuira was the one dissenter, sayig five years was too long a time.
Council members could not agree on the length of time to present to the residents and voted down a five-year, three-year, and four-year duration for the proposed 3 mills.
City Administrator Todd Drysdale proposed the millage during the Nov. 28 meeting because he said the city needs to generate revenue so they can begin to manage the projected financial shortfalls.
Councilors held the vote in abeyance for two weeks, so they could hold a study session before Monday’s meeting and come to a conclusion on how to move forward.
The current budget projects a $1.35 million deficit for the 2016-17 fiscal year, after the 1.75-mill general operating millage expires, and Drysdale recommended the council present a renewal of that tax rate with an increase to 3 mills to residents.
He said the millage would allow the city have a chance at countering the projected financial shortfalls.
In order to present the millage to the residents though, Drysdale said a five-vote majority, with the mayor abstaining, was necessary.
The previous council learned that lesson in 2011 when it voted 4-2 for a 3-mill proposal, which was later rejected by the Attorney General’s Office and Governor’s Office, and had to obtain a super-majority — five votes — to pass the millage.
That council never got that vote and could only agree on the 1.75 mills for three years, which Mayor Joseph Peterson said proved to be inadequate for the needs of the city.
“This is a recommendation we had to do and made a mistake on in the past, so let’s not do that again,” Peterson said. “This millage is what we need and not what we want. It is just to be status quo.
“It is a very difficult situation, but we need the three mills to pass for the full five years. I hope the council will just let the people vote.”
Most opposition to the five-year millage came from Councilors Ted Micuira, Daniel Galeski and Sherri Fricke due to the length of the proposed millage. They said five years is a long time for a millage and would be more comfortable with a three- or four-year millage.
Micuira said he opposed a millage over three years because “the council that proposed the millage should see that millage to its end.”
Galeski wanted a promise from Peterson — that the city would hire two police officers if the proposal is accepted by residents — before he could support any millage proposal, which he never got.
During the discussions on the millage proposal, Peterson and several residents pleaded with the council to “just give the residents the opportunity to vote on whether they want to pay for the tax increase.”
Peterson said he did not want any egos within the council to stand in the way of the residents’ right to vote for the millage increase or strike it down.
“This is only giving the people an opportunity to vote on what they wish,” Peterson said. “It’s going to do a lot for the future of the city It’s $62 a year on a $100,000 house. Please, let’s allow the residents make this decision and not try and control it here on the council.”
Ronnie Culhane, a retired Wyandotte police officer and current resident, advocated for the proposed five years and said he was frustrated and disappointed with the council because he felt they were denying the residents’ right to vote.
“The citizens of this city have the right to determine their own future and the future of this city,” he said. “If we don’t like something, we vote it down, but if we want it, it will get support.
“Give us the chance to vote because this is too important for residents not to vote on it. We are not worried about the 2017 city council, but we are worried about the 2017 Wyandotte.”
Volunteer Wyandotte Cable Producer Lawrence Tavernier said he would start a petition, with the help of the Citizens for Responsible Government in Wyandotte, if a proposal could not be agreed upon by the council.
“It is a long, difficult process,” he said. “But if that process is necessary, after today, I will do what is necessary for this city.”
After the approval, Culhane approached the council one last time to express his appreciation for their reconsideration and their faith in the residents. He also asked the city consider the proposed hiring of two additional officers Fricke, Micuira and Galeski asked for, due the 28-percent increase in crime around the city.
The council agreed to have a budget hearing in early 2014 to consider the effects 3 mills in additional taxes will have on the budget and the possibility of hiring more officers. Peterson said he would ask Police Chief Daniel Grant to be at the budget hearing, so they could discuss the need for more officers.
The millage proposed by the Wyandotte Public Schools Board of Education — to fund its operations through a non-homestead tax — is still set for a February vote, but Peterson said he would contact Supt. Carla Harding to see if the two entities could combine their elections.
Combining the two elections into a May election were being discussed by city officials, but they said the future of the city’s general operating millage was unknown and wanted its approval before those talks could be finalized.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])