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Letter: Broken funding system hurting our communities

Re: John Mozena’s Aug. 10 column “Wayne County taxes already too high”: This implies that Wayne County’s fiscal challenges are the product of reckless spending rather than historical steep reductions in property tax revenues brought on by the housing market collapse of the last decade. Wayne County’s housing market is again strong, but rules created by Lansing prevent property tax revenues from rebounding with the market.

Under my watch, we have balanced budgets, lowered legacy costs and continue to make responsible fiscal decisions. Through our Recovery Plan, we have eliminated the $82 million accumulated deficit and $52 million structural deficit and should soon exit the consent agreement. We have also found ways to improve services by streamlining bureaucracy. Vital public services like law enforcement, road maintenance, and parks come with real costs. We are committed to efficient government in Wayne County.

However, there is no cheap way to hire qualified prosecutors or CDL-licensed drivers for snow plows or patching trucks. Falling revenues are negatively impacting communities across the state. We need a solution to this challenge that treats taxpayers fairly and enables local governments to fully provide the services taxpayers rightly expect.

That is why I’m meeting with municipal leaders throughout the state to identify viable solutions for funding local government. Michigan’s current system is broken and threatens the financial stability of our local municipalities. Our state is dead last in local government investment and that directly impacts the services we provide. From Marquette to Grand Rapids to Trenton, Michigan’s current system to fund local government is failing us.

It’s a serious challenge and will greatly impact our communities as my administration continues to serve our residents. The questions Mr. Mozena raises require consideration of more than just millage rates. When examining overall county-wide taxes paid per capita, including millages such as those that pay for the DIA and zoo, Wayne County residents pay 35 percent less than Oakland County and 5 percent less than Macomb.

However, I’d purport that comparing the tri-counties is too narrow of an approach. Long-term prosperity and economic growth requires comparing Detroit to other successful regions across the country. Services such as regional transit, which will be possible via the RTA millage on the November ballot, are critical to the quality of life of our residents. Unfortunately, we are the only major metro region in the country that lacks a comprehensive transit system and our residents pay the price every day.

For any taxpayer, the most important factor is what amount comes out of your pocket and what you get in return. For me, the most important factor is that we deliver the best possible services within our means with transparency and integrity. We continue to do so at the lowest per capita amount of the tri-counties while also making the investments needed to grow the county and provide the quality of life residents deserve.

Warren Evans

Wayne County executive