It was a full house at the on Wednesday as Clawson City Manager Mark Pollock met with senior citizens to talk about the , telling them "If we don't get this right now, the services we provide are going to be impacted."
Clawson voters are being asked to approve 4.2 mills to maintain city services — 1.9 mills are a renewal of the Headlee Override from 2003 while the actual tax increase is 2.3 mills. A tax increase would offset a budget deficit resulting from declining property values.
"We don't have different public safety and recreation millages as some communities do, we've always been an all for one and one for all community," Pollock told the group. "Our operating millage covers all of our city services."
The city levies about 12.7 mills for general operating services and the tax increase would provide the additional $700,000 the city needs to maintain services such as the and Public Works.
"If we do nothing right now, we’re looking at a $600,000 budget deficit, and our position right now would be to lay employees off and cut services to match the deficit," Pollock said.
'This is a serious issue for us citywide'
Pollock stressed to the approximately 100 people in attendance that the millage issue impacts everyone in Clawson. "This is a serious issue for us citywide, not an individual impact," he said. "Instead, it impacts every service we provide."
Pollock used an example to explain the impact of the proposed millage increase due to the decrease in property values.
"In the past four years we've lost $100 million in property values in Clawson," Pollock said.
"If you've owned a home since 2008, which is about 95 percent of the property owners in Clawson, you'll actually be paying less that what you did in 2008 at 12.6834 mills because of the reduced property values."
Pollock urged residents who know their assessed taxable value to visit www.mytaxcalc.com/Clawson to calculate their annual increase. "I've had people come into my office and look it up, so if you want this information but don't have a computer you can get it," Pollock said.
If the ballot proposal passes, Pollock said the average property owner in Clawson should expect to pay an additional $90-$95 a year toward city services.
Property tax increases will be anywhere from $40-$250 a year depending on the value and time of property purchase. He used himself as an example at the high end of the spectrum, as he and his wife purchased a big home in 2010 would expect to see a property tax increase of approximately $225 a year.
Hunter Community Center impact
Most of the staff and patrons at the Hunter Community Center will be affected by the proposed millage, so when one of the seniors approached Kathy Leenhouts, the center's senior citizen coordinator, about hosting the city manager for an information session, she deemed it a good idea.
“We have to be prepared to live with the results of that vote, whether it be to pay more taxes or have cuts in our services," Leenhouts said. "That’s our choice, and that’s the great thing about our country is that we have that choice.”
“If the seniors have questions they can come get them answered to their satisfaction and then vote which way they will.”
Leenhouts said she thinks the proposed millage is unfortunate, but that it makes sense because the city’s income is funded by property taxes that have dropped drastically due to a decrease in property values in Clawson.
“I understand if you choose not to support this, but then you don’t have the right to complain if your streets aren’t plowed as regularly or there are cuts at the senior center,” she said.
Longtime Clawson resident Joyce Gleason said she would like more transparency about the funds allocated to each service on the city's website. “I think it would be good for the average voter to know which services are benefitting most by the proposed millage,” Gleason said.
Gleason, who moved to Clawson in 1963, is curious to see what would happen if the Hunter Community Center would be a private subsidiary to be eligible for bonds and grants.
“To ask people at my age who know we need this and want to do it, but 10 years is a long time to ask us to pay for it and I wonder if I can afford it,” Gleason said.
City plans town hall meeting on millage
The city has provided the millage proposal language on its website.
Clawson residents with questions about the millage proposal can attend a at or email Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline to register to vote
The last day to register to vote in the February election is Jan. 30. You can register at the Clawson or at any local Secretary of State office.
For more information, contact the City Clerk at 248-435-4500 ext. 116 or 118.