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  • By Lisa Brody

Birmingham, Bloomfield Township votes Tuesday

Voters in Birmingham and Bloomfield Township are reminded that local elections will be held Tuesday, August 6.

In Birmingham, residents are asked to approve a parking structure bond proposal in the amount of $57.4 million in order to secure financing for demolition and rebuilding of a new parking structure to replace the N. Old Woodward structure and an extension of Bates Street, the first phase of the Woodward Bates project.

While the Woodward Bates project is anticipated to bring a RH (Restoration Hardware) store, public plaza, bridge to Booth Park, a residential building and a mixed-use building, the primary goal for the project – and the bond – is to increase parking in the city and extend Bates Street to Old Woodward. By reconstructing the N. Old Woodward structure, the city will add over 400 much needed new parking spaces.

There is no cost to residents if the bonds are approved, but state law requires all municipalities to obtain approval of its residents when going for a general obligation bond because the full faith and credit of the community is being pledged. The bonds will be paid off with revenues from the city's parking system, and Birmingham has a AAA rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's, and over 90 percent of its bonding capacity available.

In Bloomfield Township, residents are being asked to support a 2.3 mill tax dedicated to public safety departments in the township through a 15-year special assessment district (SAD), which is anticipated to provide about $9 million a year to police and fire operations. The township also would terminate the final year of a 10-year millage approved in 2010, eliminating about $4.85 million in current tax revenue. The SAD would result in an overall net increase of 1.05 mills, decreasing the township's general fund contribution to police and fire by about $1.9 million each year.

One mill is equal to $1 per every $1,000 of a home's taxable value, which is typically half as much as a home's market value. The average taxable value of a home in Bloomfield Township is $215,234 ($430,468 market value), meaning the average homeowner would pay about $226 per year for the SAD.

Voters in Bloomfield Township are being asked to approve this SAD in response to a 2018 Michigan law intended to ensure local retiree health care and pension plans are adequately funded – a legacy cost the current administration and township board inherited. Under the law, the township must ensure at least 40 percent of OPEB (other post-employment benefit) costs are funded within 30 years. Previously, municipalities were permitted to pay OPEB costs as they came due. The township has about $164 million in unfunded OPEB liabilities, with about $65 million needed to cover the funding gap.

The proposed SAD would allow for the township's police and fire departments to pay for its share of the OPEB and Defined Benefit contributions on an annual basis.

The OPEB liabilities must be paid, so if the SAD is not approved, it will lead to numerous cuts, including the elimination of 10 police officer positions and eight firefighters and paramedics. To keep road patrols at current levels, support for school liaison officers, joint task forces and other assignments would be pulled. Additional cuts to service would include eliminating $1.4 million from the general fund to the road department, meaning less road maintenance, and the elimination of the township's animal welfare division, and residents will be forced to pay a one-percent administrative fee for property taxes to be collected.

Downtown newsmagazine will update election night results at on Tuesday evening.

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