Clerk/Treasurer Cathrene Behre...
HOLLY, Michigan – Departmental budget cuts across the board, personnel reductions and the promise of more cuts next year are causing the Holly Village Council members to explore the possibility of placing a public safety millage on the November ballot.
The matter was first discussed during the May 15 budget work session, prompting council members to direct Clerk/Treasurer Cathrene Behrens to begin gathering pertinent information.
After contacting the Oakland County Elections Division last week, Behrens told council members placing a millage on the November ballot wouldn’t be all that difficult.
“It’s a relatively simple process,” Behrens said. “It requires a resolution from council to authorize that a millage be placed on the November election ballot, and the verbiage or ballot language would generally be provided by the village attorney,” she added.
Behrens said the state would need to have the resolution and ballot language in hand as soon as Aug. 14, but not later than Aug. 28.
The ballot language, Behrens said, would include the amount of mills to be collected, as well as how the money would be divided among the police and fire departments.
Currently the village of Holly police and fire departments operate on a combined total of 13-mills or approximately $1.3 million. While the village police department operates on a $1 million annual budget, the fire department annually operates on a $300,000.
What a mil equates to per household, Behrens said, would depend upon the taxable value of a citizen’s home. “Based on taxable value – if your home’s taxable value is $30,000, 1-mil would come out to approximately $30 per year,” Behrens explained. “For 3-mils, that particular homeowner would pay $90 per year.”
While some communities rely completely on millage monies to fund public safety operations, Village Manager Jerry Walker said other communities provide partial funding.
“That’s part of the discussion that needs to occur,” Walker said. “It’s something that needs some careful consideration.”
Since the May 15 budget work session, Walker said several residents had contacted him about the possibility of a public safety millage, questioning the timing of it in relation to the Holly Area School’s upcoming sinking fund millage that will appear on the Aug. 7 Primary Election ballot.
“People only have so much money in their budgets,” Walker said. “What if the public safety millage passes and the school millage fails? Is the Holly community really better off?”
To Village President Jeff Miller, the school district’s sinking fund millage shouldn’t be an issue. “That’s not our curfew – we’re not the school board here,” Miller said. “We were elected by the 6,000 people of the village, and not to say, ‘Well, gosh, somebody else is having it, too,’” he added. “We might all be told no.”
Councilman Jason Hughes reminded council members that the Holly Area School district is the area’s largest employer.
“I agree that the school system is a large employer, but I’d be interested to know how many of them first of all, live outside the village, and secondly, outside the 36-square mile of Holly Township/village,” Miller said. “They drive from other cities and other counties to teach here, so that’s not necessarily a relevant point,” he added. “To me, first and foremost the importance is to meet the needs of this village – not the township, not somebody else or the school system – God bless them all – we were voted to take care of the needs of 6,000 residents.”
Walker said it was his understanding that the concerned residents that contacted him were more interested in the impact a failed sinking fund would have on the quality of education the school district would be able to provide to its students.
“Certainly the educational reputation and the actual quality that is output from the school does affect the entire community including the village because large-scale employers – when they’re looking for places to relocate business, part of what they’re looking for is the educational component of the area,” Walker said. “It’s just a consideration, but I think it’s important.”
Councilwoman Jackie Campbell made a motion to form a public safety millage exploration committee made up of both council members and village residents. Kenner seconded her motion.
Miller appointed himself, Kenner and Councilwoman Sandra Kleven to serve on the committee, and appointed several citizens, some of whom were in the audience, including Laurie Lacey, Buster Winebrenner, and Julie Hyvonen. Council directed Walker to contact Holly resident and Holly Township supervisor hopeful George Kullis to sit on the committee. On Wednesday, Kullis accepted the appointment. Holly resident Lenore Johnston will serve as an alternate on the committee.