RIVERVIEW — Residents in the city will notice a tax rate increase for the upcoming year after the City Council passed the annual operating budget and millage rates June 6.
The additional tax is the 1.74 mills special assessment for trash collection, which includes the new curbside recycling collection. Overall, Riverview will see a 1.68 millage rate increase, from 20.38 to 22.06, for fiscal year 2023 with the addition of the collection tax and a slight decrease of 0.06 for the city operating tax.
Councilwoman Rita Guana asked about the impact the millage increase would have on each household. City Manager Douglas Drysdale explained that the millage is $1.68 per $1,000 of taxable value, so a home valued at $50,000 would pay roughly $80 for the year.
In April, the council unanimously awarded a bid to Stevens Disposal & Recycling Services Inc., the city’s current collection contractor, for the bi-weekly residential curbside service.
The five-year agreement costs $175,344, annually.
Councilman Chuck Norton said he received phone calls going back and forth on the millage. He also brought up what he called a $600,000 shortfall at the landfill.
“I do not feel that now is the time to increase taxes when gas is over $5 a gallon and food has increased drastically,” he said. “This is the first time in 54 years we are asking the residents to help with the shortfall at the landfill, I would like to try to figure out a way to do this without raising taxes.”
Mayor Andrew Swift clarified that there is not a $600,000 shortfall at the landfill, but that it’s a $600,000 in profit the city is missing out on.
“The landfill is still profitable,” Swift said. “We have $600,000 less in income which makes $600,000 less to provide to the general fund where the funding for the police, fire and all the other departments come from.”
The city submitted its revised plan application to the Wayne County Solid Waste Planning Division and Facility Inclusion Committee for the proposed landfill expansion in May.
Norton suggested the possibility of making a motion to adopt a revised resolution.
“I would like to move to place the 1.7 mills for recycling on the November ballot and let the residents decide that,” he said. “Wayne County did not ask us to do that. We took it upon ourselves to do that.”
Swift responded by saying he believes it was one of the directions the county gave the city.
“It was one of the items on the county’s request, to get a recycling program,” he said.
When asked if curbside recycling specifically was recommended by the county, Swift said they recommended recycling in whatever form.
“I know we talked about the satellite center,” he said. “The curbside recycling would help the county satisfy, along with all the other objectives we have, of getting a legitimate curbside recycling going. For us, I think curbside recycling makes more sense then other communities because that makes more space available for us to sell to other communities.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Community Development Director Dave Scurto announced that the city received a $59,200 grant from the Recycling Partnership to purchase curbside recycling carts.
“The award also comes with technical support and in-kind assistance,” he said. “This does work in tandem with the second larger recycling application sent to (Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) around the same time.”
Norton said that the money the city received from the grant was wonderful, but questioned how it would work depending on how many residents use the recycling service.
“If we go through with this recycling and find out that only 200 residents are utilizing it and its costing $175,000, no matter how many households, will we have to pay that grant back if we stop because of the attorney doing his due diligence?” he said. “Would we jeopardize losing that $55,000 and paying it back?”
Drysdale said that the city only received the letter for the grant but did not formally accept it. He responded to Norton by saying that would jeopardize losing the grant money and that the city would pay that back out of its own pocket.
Norton said that because of jeopardizing losing the grant money, he wanted to make a motion to put the 1.74 mills for recycling on the November ballot and let the residents decide that and not the City Council.
Swift said he thinks that if the city waited until November to put it on the ballot, it would affect the budget for the coming fiscal year.
Regarding the motion, Drysdale added that waiting until November would mean the city would have to cut $600,000 from the budget before July 1.
Another topic Norton brought up was education for all residents on how the recycling collection would work. Swift said education is going to be a major part of the program.
Norton’s motion failed. Swift, and Councilmembers Dean Workman, Lynn Blanchette and Gunaga voted against, while Councilmembers Norton, Sussie O’Neil and David Robbins were in favor.
The council then voted on the original resolution, to approve the 2022-23 annual operating budget and millage rates. The resolution passed 4-3, with Swift, Workman, Blanchette and Gunaga voted in favor, and Norton, O’Neil and Robbins opposed.
Former Councilman Bill Towle spoke about the millage during the public comment before the votes. He said that it’s been obvious that if the landfill expansion is not approved by Wayne County, the city’s revenue is going to decrease by 25 percent.
“The options available to council are limited to fill that revenue gap,” Norton said. “They can either increase taxes, modify services or some combination of increased taxes and modification to services.
“Based on the 1.7 mills special assessment included in the 2022-23 budget, for trash collection, that does not require voter approval. Council has decided to use option one at this time, increase taxes only rather than option three which is a combination.”
Towle also said that this would be the first time, to his knowledge, that the council has increased taxes without asking for voter approval.
Resident Jared Coyne also spoke on the millage, saying that Wayne County didn’t mandate that the city have curbside pickup.
“They said that a second dropoff location would’ve been fine, so I’m kind of at a loss to why we’re increasing taxes,” he said. “Generally speaking, I don’t like the idea of people voting on other people’s money but that’s still better than council just voting on it. Our taxes are going to go up, our property values are going to go down.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])