Locals leary about county transit millage

By David Fleet and Don Rush

On Aug. 10, the Oakland County Board of Commissions OK’d ballot language for a 10-year countywide transit millage on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The 0.95 mill, which is expected to raise $66.2 million in the first year, would replace three existing transit millage, including the expiring SMART millage in areas where it exists, and provide more than $20 million for new services. The measure would eliminate opt-outs in the county, jurisdictions that don’t participate in or provide property tax revenue to fund SMART.

The Oakland County commissioners passed the millage language with a 13 to 7 vote with two Republicans, Karen Joliat representing the Village of Clarkston, as well as portions of Independence and Waterford townships along with Michael Gingell, representing the City of Lake Angelus, Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion, joining in on the yes vote. Commissioner Michael Spisz (R) from Oxford Township voted against the millage language. Commissioner Tom Kuhn, (R), did not vote.

Seventh District Commissioner Bob Hoffman, (R) who represents Groveland Township also voted no.

I’m very disappointed and upset following this 11th hour emergency meeting vote” said Hoffman. “They want to extract $3.2 million from the taxpayers of the 7th Distinct for something that’s no benefit to us. We know here in the 7th what our needs are.”

This millage is going to hurt a lot of people,” he added. “We don’t need the county managing our district. The government is overreaching and there is not even a plan yet for the project.”

The measure would eliminate opt-outs in the county, jurisdictions that don’t participate in or provide

property tax revenue to fund SMART. The 0.95-mill measure would fund the county’s SMART service, the most visible transit system outside the city of Detroit.

Oxford Township Supervisor Jack Curtis is not a fan of the millage.

Jack Curtis

Well, how do I say this civilly,” he said. “Is rapid transit needed? Yes. A bus system is not. First of all, all these non profits and giant hospital systems who are bragging about how it would be great, that they need it for their employees to get to work. Not one of those non-profits or hospitals pay property taxes. This would be a tax on North Oakland County to help Wayne County. Our economy flourished and our towns are growing. Employment is good up here, we don’t need this. I can’t say it enough. The ones who want this don’t pay any damn taxes. With this we’re buying someone a ride to work just because we bought our homes. Bottom line is, let’s tax the ones who would benefit from this, the non profits, the hospitals, the government non taxing entities. What they want is nothing more than an revitalized bus route. If they want rapid transit, build a train station and railroad. It worked 100 years ago. It could work again. Their plan is not rapid transit. If these non profits and hospitals need to get people to work, let them pay a wage so they can buy a vehicle. Let them support the damn thing. Not us. Our NOTA (North Oakland Transportation Authority) serves our community. That’s why we voted for our millage. This thing is not something I want.”

Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson was a little more reserved in talking about the transit millage proposal. “I am not really happy about it. But, I am reserving my true opinion once we have our supervisor’s meeting on Monday (Aug. 15). The chairman of the county commission (David Woodward, District 19, Berkley/Royal Oak) is coming to our meeting, only if we promised it wouldn’t be a hostile meeting. We promised him we wouldn’t bring eggs or anything. I think it is a money grab, but I want to reserve my opinion until after I hear it from the horse’s mouth on what he is trying to do.”

Bruce Pearson

Pearson said he fears if the millage passes the county may have control over NOTA. “We don’t want them to get their hands on it. NOTA has the best service of any of the transportation services,” he said, adding “We already pay for the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Zoo and they couldn’t get the Regional Transit Authority passed so it looks like they’re going around the taxpayers.”

Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma also strongly opposes the millage.

For a township like us there’s no opt out,” said DePalma. “We will be completely a donor with absolutely no benefit and no option to get out. This is being pushed through by the (Oakland) county commissioners, but not all of them. We are not going to get diddly-squat out of this. They are going to tax our residents almost the same amount that we pay to run the whole township. It’s going to go to mass transit and we are going to get nothing. If you look at.95 mills for the average home in the township, that’s going to be about $120 (on an average home) a year tax increase,” said DePalma. “I don’t like this, I don’t agree with it, they won’t give us an opt out, but we are going to get this jammed down our throats.”

Megan Owens, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Riders United, said the Connect Oakland plan proposed by the Oakland County Commission is about Oakland County funding the mobility options for each community.

The goal is to ensure none of our Oakland neighbors are ever trapped at home because they can’t drive,” said Owens. “A growing number of our elderly neighbors can no longer safely drive but want to remain in their homes. Sometimes family or friends can provide rides, but not always. A countywide transit measure will expand on local services that have proven successful and ensure they have dedicated funding to expand to more communities.”

It will invest in the services that the North Oakland Transit Authority is currently providing to Oxford, Orion, and Addison townships, added Owen.

They use vans to provide door-to-door rides for seniors, residents with disabilities, and low income residents,” she said. “Right now, NOTA will take their residents to destinations in Brandon Township, but Brandon residents cannot use it. If this countywide transit measure is passed, NOTA is likely to expand throughout Brandon and Groveland townships, ensuring your elderly neighbors have a safe, independent way to get to their doctor, grocery store, and elsewhere.”


One Response to "Locals leary about county transit millage"

  1. W.H.   August 19, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    How do we stop this now? It’s ludicrous taxing us for service that we will never benefit from. It was already voted on and passed. What a wrong thought process from those purportedly voting on their taxpayers behalf!!! Someone help us please!


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