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Clawson Taxpayers Express Concern, Support for Millage Increase

With the presidential primary and local election just days away, there are a lot of mixed feelings and uncertainty among residents.

For some Clawson residents, the idea of paying higher taxes to maintain the city's services is a worthy investment. For others, there is an increasing list of concerns over the that will appear on the ballot in the primary election Tuesday.

"We've gotta look at other opportunities other than taxing our people," resident Doug Purdo said Wednesday at a Town Hall meeting for the city's millage proposal. "We need to find different ways to get this revenue back in the city."

Like many taxpayers, Purdo is still on the fence with the 10-year tax increase. Some residents say a five-year increase would be more efficient given the uncertainty of the housing market in the next 10 years.

"If property values go up, then the city will have more money than it can handle," Purdo said.

The taxable value for Clawson has plummeted by about $100 million since 2008 to about $308 million, City Manager Mark Pollock said. This loss in value equates to about $1.2 million in general fund tax revenues. 

Technically, the proposal is a 2.3 mill increase since 1.9 mills are a renewal of the Headlee Override from 2003. 

Pollock said if the millage doesn't pass, the city may have to lay off 18-20 full-time workers. This could result in outsourcing police, Public Works, and services. Cuts to the Department of Public Works could impact the city's highly-praised leaf pickup and snow removal services.

Resident Eleanor Bluhn said the police department and dependable services are what she loves most about living in Clawson.

"We cannot afford not to put this through," Bluhn said. "One of the biggest advantages to selling a house in Clawson is the services."

The tax levy would cost the average homeowner $724 in 2012, based on a taxable property value of $48,300. Pollock said with home values decreasing, taxpayers are actually paying $140 less than they were in 2008 when the millage rate was 12.7 and the average taxable value for property was $68,200. However, the impact on most property owners from 2011 to 2012 taxes should be less than a $90 increase, or about $7.50 a month.

Resident Ed Sanocki said he plans to vote "yes" on the millage increase. Paying the extra $7.50 a month is a matter of finding balance and sacrificing a case of soda, for example, he said.

"They should balance whether they want to spend that $7.50 to maintain their quality of life," Sanocki said of voters.

Resident Richard Baxter said he still isn't sold on the millage and also wishes for a five-year increase instead. At the Town Hall meeting Wednesday, Baxter expressed distrust in the way the city handles its budget. 

Baxter, a resident of 27 years, said he'd like to see city officials be more proactive and transparent with residents before millage proposals come up. For example, Baxter said voters may not have approved the if they knew the city's services would be in jeopardy less than a year later.

"When you come and ask for money ... you don't do enough up front," Baxter said.

However, Pollock said City Council has been publicly discussing the need for a millage increase for the past two years. Pollock and Mayor Penny Luebs both said Thursday that they would be open to asking for a five-year millage in another election if this proposal doesn't pass. Pollock said the city initially decided on a 10-year increase because Oakland County predicts the housing market won't recover until 2020. 

"Right now, I am actually hearing more good than bad," Pollock said of the feedback from voters. "But there are people that feel strongly both ways."

To calculate your estimated adjusted property tax increase visit mytaxcalc.com/clawson.

Joseph Boledovich February 24, 2012 at 02:06 AM
I will vote no on a ten year, but yes on 5. I love my city and I have faith that our citizens will re-ante again in 5 years if the housing market has not recovered sufficiently.I know this means a special election and more money, but ...
Clawson Citizen February 24, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Same here. When I first read about the increase request, my first reaction, also, was 10years is too long. I would go for a 5year increase, then let's see where our economy & the housing market is at then. If still bad at the 5year mark, then ask for another 5yr increase. I also don't trust "predictions" either, they can also 'backfire' on us & the economy can be better than what was/is predicted. Everyone is hurting right now as well, which makes this a good but hard decision to make. For the first time ever, because the value of my home was so low, & taxes were so low, I also lost my the homestead tax credit when filing income taxes too. For the first time, ever! I owed state tax payment to Michigan instead. As for selling my house & services in the city, well that is a joke anyways! My value is below what I bought it for 1998 and it at where I bought my first home in the late 70's! I am just barely above water! even though, I have done everything correctly & only owe 6 more years on my mortgage too. In essence, I am trapped right now, when it comes to selling anyways.
Mike Pihaylic February 24, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Please use the online calculator or stop by City Hall, before you decide if you are going to have to dig into your pockets. For me, after the increase I will still be paying less. You are beleiving that is a monetary increase, it is restoring a deflated tax base. I grabbed an AV Ballot and voted YES. The impact on your city services would be felt by all.
Eva Joyce Burns February 24, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Use the taxcalc, we found that our taxes will be lower because of evaluation went down. The City has cut all they can, if we lose leaf pick up it will cost more for "paper leaf bags" than the new tax.

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