City to buy building for NEXT, ask for tax levy
By Grace Lovins
After eight years of searching for a home for NEXT, Birmingham's organization for older residents, the group has found a new location with the city's purchase of the Birmingham YMCA building, to be supported by a millage proposal on the November ballot, both of which the city commission unanimously approved at a meeting on Monday, June 5.
After a three-year transition period, NEXT will split the building with the YMCA in the building located at 400 East Lincoln Street.
NEXT, a non-profit offering support for older citizens, has used space at Midvale School in Birmingham provided by Birmingham Public Schools. The school district hasn’t provided a comprehensive lease or future assurance for NEXT, which led the city on a search to help NEXT find a permanent location.
The organization provides comprehensive services for seniors, such as information, referrals, classes and activities, transportation and access to social, legal, health, housing, educational, emotional, nutritional and recreational help.
According to outgoing city manager Tom Markus, the Birmingham School District would not provide a lease for the Midvale School to NEXT and is reportedly interested in using Midvale as an early childhood facility. The district will still allow NEXT to use the school for the next three years.
Markus and NEXT director Chris Braun were able to find a solution through the purchase of the Birmingham YMCA building for $2 million. NEXT will contribute $500,000 towards the purchase price, which will be given to the city on the closing date. Birmingham will pay the remaining $1.5 million for the property. The city then plans to enter a long-term lease agreement with NEXT for one dollar per year.
The purchase agreement calls for a three-year transition period during which the lease agreements will be entered into between the city and the YMCA. The YMCA will continue to offer services and have a responsibility for maintenance of the building and land during that timeframe. Renovations and other processes will also take place during the three-year period.
When NEXT moves in the building, the organization will occupy about 75 percent of the square footage while the YMCA will occupy the other 25 percent.
To support the new NEXT facility, city staff proposed putting a senior tax levy on the ballot for the upcoming November election. Incoming city manager Jana Ecker stated that a proposition can be submitted to levy up to one mill for services provided to older citizens. Staff is proposing a .33 mill tax for three years to provide funding for the senior and community center for improvements and to provide a sinking fund for future improvements.
According to Ecker, the tax levy would equate to an extra $95.87 in tax per year for the average homeowner, essentially an extra $33 per year for every $100,000 of a home.'s taxable value. Finance director Mark Gerber said the timing of the proposal is fortunate given that in the city's coming fiscal year, Birmingham will be paying off a portion of a bond levy, reducing the current levy by .28 of a mill.
“With this opportunity, there’s a way we can maintain a presence here plus meet a community need, work with a great organization and the city to continue to serve,” said Helene Weir, president and CEO of YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit.
According to Weir, the goal is to maintain as much of a presence as possible for the YMCA and provide support to people in terms of quality of life. The partnership between NEXT and YMCA would also allow for the potential for intergenerational programming between seniors and younger residents.
“I think that this is a momentous occasion, and the reason is we have a lot of assets for why we should be living in Birmingham,” said commissioner Brad Host.
“This is not just a real estate transaction, this is a community partnership with the YMCA for, I hope, 300 years. This will become one of our biggest community assets not only for our seniors but if we can include the over 100 years of programming that the YMCA has, this is going to be a senior slash community center that will become one of our biggest assets for living here,” he continued.
Several members of the public, including NEXT members, shared their excitement for the partnership and the solution to the long-standing issue surrounding NEXT. Commissioners voted 7-0 to approve the purchase and the agreement between the city and YMCA, as well as voting 7-0 to place the tax levy on the ballot for the upcoming November election.