Wayne voters to consider joining fire, rescue authority

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Voters in the city of Wayne are being asked whether to join an authority created by two other Metro suburbs to fund fire and rescue services.

The measure would let Wayne to join the South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority, a public financing organization created last year between Eastpointe in Macomb County and Hazel Park in Oakland County.

Wayne Mayor Susan Rowe said the city is asking residents to approve the proposal Tuesday because it’s the community’s best option to maintain public safety services.

“Our backs are against the wall,” she said. “We’re just a day away from a disaster happening.”

Under the authority, homeowners in Eastpointe and Hazel Park pay a 20-year, 14-mill property tax to cover the cost of fire and rescue services. In Eastpointe, 61 percent of voters supported the levy; Hazel park voters approved the measure with 73 percent of the vote.

The measure was designed to enable the two financially strapped cities to continue providing critical emergency services and free up revenue for other city services. The two cities’ firefighters and emergency medical technicians serve only their own communities, which are about 10 miles apart, and do not help the other like contiguous cities do under mutual aid pacts.

Rowe said Wayne has cut its budget and staff to the bone and is struggling to pay pensions. On top of that, the city pays about $6.9 million a year from its general fund to fund police and fire services, she said.

If Wayne voters approve the plan, Rowe said, it will cost the average homeowner in Wayne an extra $365 to $400 a year. The measure will generate $4.9 million.

“We’ll still have take more than $2 million from the general fund,” she said. “If this can pass, it’ll free up money in the general fund so we can hire new police officers and firefighters.”

Elsewhere in Wayne County, a handful of communities have public safety measures and other ballot questions before voters.

■Livonia has two proposals to renew millages on Tuesday’s ballot. One is a public safety millage. The other is a measure to maintain cultural and senior citizen services. Because they’re renewals, they won’t result in a tax increase if they’re approved.

■In Dearborn, residents will decide the renewal of a supplemental five-year, 3.5-mill levy to help pay for city operations. The measure was first approved in 2011. Approval of the measure will not result in an increase in the property tax rate.

Officials said if voters reject the proposal, city revenues will fall $11 million beginning in July 2017 and each year after, resulting in reductions in services.

■Grosse Ile voters are being asked to support the renewal of a millage to pay for fire department equipment. The levy, a five-year, 0.5-mill tax, will not result in an increase in the tax rate. If approved, it will generate an estimated $287,000 in its first year and money from the tax will be used to pay for new fire fighting vehicles and other equipment.

Brian Loftus, the township’s supervisor, said the township’s fire department is staffed by 28 volunteers and a full-time fire chief and fire marshal. All also are trained as emergency medical technicians.

“It pays for all of the gear the firefighters use, the trucks, the pumpers, the hoses — all of those things that you need to have an effective fire department,” he said.

Loftus said if residents reject the measure, the township will have to delay replacing equipment. “Our capabilities will gradually diminish,” he said.

■Grosse Ile residents also have the renewal of a five-year, 0.5-mill recreational program millage on the ballot. Loftus said the tax covers the cost of maintenance for recreational facility grounds and equipment as well as the salaries of some employees. If it’s rejected, he said the township will have to reduce its program offerings.

■Lincoln Park residents will vote on renewing a 3.5-mill police and fire levy for three years. Officials estimate the tax, the only one dedicated for public safety services, will generate about $1.8 million its first year.

■Sumpter Township is asking voters to support the renewal of three public safety millages. There are two different police service millages — one for 1 mill and one for 2 mills — in addition to a 1 mill fire services levy.

The police millages are six-year taxes and will generate more than $967,000 in their first year while the four-year fire millage will generate $322,439 in its first year.

■In Taylor, the ballot has a question about revising the city charter and electing a charter commission.

■Southgate voters will decide a measure to amend the city charter to establish term limits for city officials, including the mayor and city council.


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