Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is onto something when he talks about revamping property taxes.
In his State of the County Address, Ficano railed against the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A. Both legislative acts limit how much the county and communities can collect in property taxes.
The Acts may have made sense back when they were adopted — when the economy was prosperous — but in today’s economy they hinder the ability of communities to deliver basic services.
Many communities and school districts are on the verge of bankruptcy.
While some folks will scoff at the notion of allowing property taxes to increase, the brutal truth is tax revenue has shrunk considerably while costs continue to rise.
Ficano says the county lost $100 million in tax collection since 2009. Hamtramck has lost about $1 million in the same period.
One remedy to this loss in tax revenue has been for local communities to share services, such as police, fire and sanitation. To a degree, it doesn’t make sense for cities like Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak to each have a separate police department.
Hamtramck officials have debated whether it is feasible to team up with Highland Park or Detroit and the consensus is it wouldn’t work because those cities are struggling financially as well.
We have a feeling that it’s inevitable that the state will step in and appoint an emergency manager, and it could very well result in one of those cities taking over our fire service.
Or, it could turn out that our Fire Department will be restructured in some other fashion. That, of course, is totally in the hands of the firefighters’ union, which must agree to a drastic restructuring.
From what we have heard, that’s not going to happen, and it’s too late for state legislators or the voters to overturn Headlee and Proposal A.
Change, whether we like it or not, is coming.