Officials put 1-mill request for parks/rec. on Nov. ballot

Officials want to be sure everything is as clear and concise as possible when voters go to the polls in November.
That’s why it took three meetings held by two boards within five days to approve ballot language for a millage proposal to continue funding the Oxford Twp. Parks and Recreation Dept. and give it a little financial bump.
On Monday evening, the township board, during a special meeting held concurrently with a meeting of the parks and rec. commission, voted 6-0 to place a 15-year, 1-mill property tax request on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The next day, Aug. 14, was the deadline to file language for the general election.
If approved, the levy would begin with the December 2018 tax collection and end with the December 2032 collection.
It’s estimated that in the first year, the proposed millage would generate $862,140.
One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s taxable value.
Although the ballot language labels this proposal as “new additional millage,” in reality, it’s a renewal coupled with a slight increase.
The current parks/rec. operating tax, which expires with the December 2019 collection, is expected to roll back to 0.8234 mills this year due to the Headlee Amendment.
If this request is approved, officials would begin levying the 1-mill tax this year in place of the existing millage, meaning property owners would start paying an additional 0.1766 mill.
Part of the proposed increase is meant to help the parks and rec. department cover the added responsibility of running the new 3,126-square-foot senior center that will be built in Seymour Lake Township Park.
Construction will be funded by $300,000 from the township’s general fund reserves, plus $100,000 from the parks and rec. budget’s reserves.
Once built, the parks and rec. department plans to pay for the senior center’s staffing, operations and maintenance using monies from its annual budget, which is funded by its dedicated millage.
Township officials held Monday’s special meeting because they feared the original ballot language they approved in a 5-2 vote during last week’s regular meeting might be too “confusing” for voters, which could put the millage proposal at risk for failure.
“I went over this and if I were to see this on a ballot, as the normal citizen, I would be scared to death looking at it,” said Trustee Elgin Nichols.
The lengthy language passed on Aug. 8 had a word count of 203. When he was finished reading the lengthy language into the record as part of the motion, Trustee Jack Curtis remarked, “There’s not one period in there.”
Ron Davis, director of the parks and rec. department, said it’s difficult to educate the public about a ballot question “if (people) can’t comprehend what (they’re) voting on” because the language is too complex. “This has gotten out of hand, if you ask me,” he said.
Nichols and Treasurer Joe Ferrari, both of whom voted against the first version of the ballot language, expressed their desire for language that was simpler and “cleaner.”
“There’s got to be a better way,” Ferrari said.
“We want to do everything we can to make it pass,” Nichols said.
It was explained to the board that, due to legal requirements concerning the way tax proposals must be phrased, the first version was what the township attorney recommended.
Clerk Curtis Wright called it “typical language” for millage and bond proposals.
Supervisor Bill Dunn remarked, “I haven’t seen a ballot yet that’s just straightforward.”
“It seems like they could just write it in plain English, but unfortunately, we can’t,” he said.