A little debate erupted at last week’s Oxford Village Council meeting over the proposed property tax rate to be levied for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The proposed budget, expected to be approved at the May 23 council meeting, is based on keeping the tax rate at its current 10.62 mills, which equals $10.62 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.
That’s been the village rate since 2010.
Councilman Dave Bailey suggested it was time for a tax cut given the village closed its local police dispatch center on Nov. 30, 2016 and began contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to handle all of its 9-1-1 emergency and police-related calls.
“One of the main reasons – probably, the main reason – given (for) the new 9-1-1 arrangement was that we would save money,” Bailey said.
Because of the dispatch switch, the village is projecting an estimated net savings of $148,000 for the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to a budget highlights report prepared for council by Clerk Susan Nassar in late March.
“I feel uncomfortable about just turning around and spending that money immediately and keeping the millage (rate) at 10.62,” Bailey said. “I would like to see the millage go down to some value less than 10.62.”
But Councilman Erik Dolan, who led the charge for the dispatch change last year, argued maintaining the current millage rate is “appropriate.”
Dolan agreed the elimination of the local dispatch center was a cost-saving measure, but he believes the village has “a responsibility to the taxpayers” to turn that savings into services by investing it in other areas, such as police and public works, to shore up deficiencies and make improvements where needed.
“The village has responsibilities that due to its financial circumstances, it was not taking care of,” he explained.
Bossardet agreed with Dolan.
“I think that we need to leave it at 10.62 (mills),” she said. “The savings that we’re going to realize from the (change in) 9-1-1 (services) can potentially be used (for) the roads that need to be fixed, the parking lots that are in disrepair, building maintenance and things like that. I just think that we need to start doing some of that.”
Dolan wished to make it clear that by maintaining the current millage rate, the village is “not attempting to amass wealth on the backs of the taxpayers.”
“We’re attempting to return services back to the community, which it is in dire need of,” he said. “We have a municipal parking lot which is, essentially, dirt. We have roads that are crumbling.”
“We have things that are falling apart and if we don’t address them, we’re going to be in a much worse situation,” the councilman stressed.
Although he believes it would be “outstanding” to return some of the dispatch savings to residents, Dolan said that wasn’t the motivation for contracting with the county.
“There was never any selling or proposal to (switch) 9-1-1 (services) to reduce taxes for the residents,” he said. “That was never a selling point or a suggestion.”
A public hearing regarding the proposed 2017-18 budget and tax rate is scheduled for the 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 council meeting.
The total proposed budget contains $6.3 million spread over various funds. The general fund is $2.108 million. The police budget is $760,574. The dispatch budget is $69,628, which includes $31,200 for the county contract and $38,428 for retirement benefits and unemployment related to the former local communications center.
Council is expected to adopt the budget and tax rate at that meeting.