By Charles Sercombe
To tax or not to tax?
That’s one question Hamtramck voters won’t likely be asked in the Nov. 3 General Election. City officials had planned to ask voters to approve an extra three mills on the property tax roll to pay for a new fire ladder truck and ambulance.
The tax would have lasted for five years and raise $1.2 million.
Instead of voters deciding the issue, next year’s Common Council will likely have to vote that up or down. But before any of that happens, City Manager Bill Cooper said he will seek an opinion from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office on whether the city can sidestep asking voters.
Why the change of plans?
Cooper said while doing research on the matter, it was discovered that when the city adopted a new City Charter a few years ago, the city’s property tax rate was reset. That reset actually meant the city could add on an additional 2.5 mills to the tax roll without being required to get voter approval, Cooper said.
That’s the part, Cooper said, he wants to double-check with the AG’s Office. Cooper also noted that the proposed ballot question is not binding because he found out that asking for an additional millage requires a charter amendment first.
If for some reason the council decides not to remove the ballot question, Cooper said it would be nothing more than an “advisory” vote. As of this week, a majority of the council say they would vote to remove the tax proposal from the ballot.
Cooper said if the AG’s office agrees with his interpretation of the charter’s effect on the millage rate, he will include a tax increase proposal in next year’s budget, which would come in May.
That means he will be dealing with possibly three new councilmembers and possibly a new mayor. Mayoral candidate Abdul Algazali, who is currently a councilmember, has gone on record saying he is against new taxes.
It’s not clear where the top three council candidates, Kazi Miah, Anam Miah and Mohammed Hassan, stand on tax issues. They did not return a Review candidate survey mailed to them before the August Primary Election. One of the questions on the survey had to do with a public safety tax.
Candidate Kathy Kristy also did not return a survey.
Candidates Tom Jankowski and Alan Shulgon, as well as Mayor Karen Majewski, who is seeking re-election, basically said they would consider supporting a tax if there are no other options.
Cooper said there are a number of proposals on how he would structure a tax rate increase. One proposal Cooper is considering would add on the maximum amount, 2.5 mills, to pay for a new ladder truck as well as plug an expected $1 million budget deficit.
The additional 2.5 mills would generate about $500,000 a year, Cooper said.