- In total, the City will need 2.5 mills per year over the next six years to prevent further cuts to public safety staffing and to repair local streets.
- If approved, the City’s millage rate will remain the lowest of any city in Macomb County.
- For the average homeowner, the 2.5 mills will equate to a $157 or $13 per month increase in their current total property tax bill.
- However, the average tax bill will remain $292 or 10.6% lower than in 2007.
- Additional revenues will facilitate investment in equipment necessary to ensure effective police and fire protection.
Police and Fire Protection (1.7 mills for 6 years)
- This portion of the dedicated millage will generate approximately $7.1 million in the first year for police and fire protection.
- If approved by voters, the revenue generated from this millage will enable the City to preserve excellent police and fire services avoiding major cuts and the associated reductions in the levels of service to the community.
Staff Analysis & Findings
- As discussed over the past several years, the City can either continue cutting services and positions or seek to recover a portion of lost property taxes to prevent further reductions to public safety.
- Based on the December 2012 community survey, residents continue to place a high value on public safety and do not want to see further reductions in this area. A majority indicated they would support a public safety millage to avoid further layoffs in public safety.
- City Administration has determined that 1.7 mills are needed in order to prevent an additional reduction of 65 public safety staff and to adequately fund public safety equipment, thereby avoiding a delay in public safety response times.
Reduce Public Safety Personnel by 45 Police Officers and 20 Firefighters
Although it may be possible to minimize lay-offs and absorb the drawdown of 65 positions through retirements, the impact on public safety is undeniable.
- The high level of service, which has been a hallmark of Sterling Heights since its incorporation, will be negatively impacted.
- It is likely that the current number of fire stations will be reduced and, correspondingly, response times will be adversely impacted.
- The City will need to seriously reconsider its fire service model.
- On the police side, all services will need to be evaluated in light of the substantial loss of manpower. The Police Department in this situation would become reactive rather than proactive, potentially compromising our safe city distinction.
- More Crime and Less Fire protection will lead to lower property values, higher home and auto insurance premiums and reduced investment in the city
After considerable research and evaluation, City Administration is recommending that the City Council consider an amendment to the City Charter to authorize the levy of a special, dedicated millage for police and fire protection and repair, maintenance, and reconstruction of local streets. The recommended millage levy is 2.5 mills for the dedicated uses and for the defined terms as described below.
What happens in 6 years when it expires?
- According to the action taken by City Council approving the ballot language, tax bills will be reduced by 2.5 mills in 6 years.
- The City also has a long history of reducing the millage rate in years when revenues exceed projections or expenditures are lower than projected. Administration will need to evaluate revenue projections at that time before recommending a continuation of the millage, additional expenditure reductions or some combination.
Property values are now increasing so why is it necessary to recover lost revenue through the proposed millage?
- After a 6-year decline, residential property values are increasing. However, manufacturing and commercial values, comprising 40% of the City’s tax base, are still declining. This has resulted in an overall decrease in taxable value.
- By law, regardless of property value, increases in property assessments can only increase by 5% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The 10-year rate of inflation has averaged 2.5% and is assumed in future projections. The City projects that overall property tax revenue will not return to 2007 levels (the year values started declining) until 2026. In addition, the State Legislature has approved elimination of the Personal Property Tax (PPT) for manufacturers. The City will lose another $13 million during the phase out period.
How will the community benefit in the long term if the proposed millage passes?
The City is at a critical point in its history. While much has been accomplished during this crisis to place the City on a better financial foundation for the future, the continuing structural imbalance must be closed by recovering lost revenue in order for the City to maintain its status as a full-service, effective, and efficient municipality.
- This action will not only preserve excellent police and fire services, but provide for direct reinvestment in road infrastructure.
- By eliminating the need to reduce expenditures any further, the City will also be able to focus on long range planning necessary to ensure quality public works, library, parks and recreation, economic development and other community oriented services important to the future success of the City.
Has the City done all that is possible to reduce costs?
Yes. Since 2002:
- 201 full time positions have been eliminated.
- A private contractor now operates the Police Department Jail.
- The City is merging dispatch operations with the County . The DARE program has been eliminated.
- The City restructured the Fire Department by reducing the number of personnel assigned to apparatus from 4 to 3 eliminating 15 positions.
- The City has reduced the non-public safety workforce by almost 50%.
- The City has eliminated fixed pensions for General Employees (those hired prior to 1997 are grandfathered) and replaced traditional retiree health care coverage with Health Savings Accounts, saving approximately $50 million long term.
- The City has also reduced fixed pensions for all existing employees.
- The City has implemented wage and benefit concessions equating to 15%.
- Significant service reductions have been implemented in the Parks and Recreation Department, Library, Nature Center and Administration.
What do I get if this millage is approved?
If the millage passes:
- There will not be a need to eliminate 45 additional police officer positions and 20 fire fighters.
- The City will be able to replace almost 50 new police officers and 20 new firefighters in the next five years through attrition.
- The City will be able to reinvest in technology and equipment in both departments necessary to continue using best practices to help public safety personnel in the field.
- Response times will continue to rank among the best in the nation.
- The City will continue to have premiere public safety services.
How can I check to see if my taxes have actually gone down in the past 6 years?
- You can view the summer and winter property taxes billed by the city over the past 6 years by visiting this link [click here]. You may also call the City Treasurers office at 586-446-2780 and this information can be provided to you.
Police & Fire Contingency Plan – Executive Summary
On Tuesday, November 5, 2013 , the City of Sterling Heights will place on the ballot a millage increase for Public Safety in order to preserve the quality of service currently being provided to the community. If the proposed millage does not pass, reduction in staffing within the Police and Fire Departments and ultimately elimination of services will take place.
Failure of the proposed millage would require the reduction of 45 additional police officers and 20 firefighters through layoffs and attrition.
These position reductions would be required because if the millage fails, this city will not have a balanced budget and will have to either cut expenditures or continue utilizing remaining reserves. The latter is only a short-term option, as reserves would be depleted within a few years.
In terms of expenditures, the largest cost center is labor. Realizing the labor force has been reduced by 50% in non-police and fire departments, the only area left to reduce is the police officers and fire fighters. The reduction in personnel would have the following impact:
The following reductions in staffing and services will occur if the millage is not passed:
- Officer-to-resident staffing ratio will be reduced to .85 officers per 1,000 residents, which is less than half the staffing levels recommended by the FBI.
- Sworn Personnel reduced by 45
- Patrol Bureau reduced by 23.5%
- Elimination of Accident Reduction Unit
- Elimination of the entire Traffic Bureau
- Elimination of the K-9 Unit
- Elimination of the Crime Suppression Unit (Narcotics)
- Elimination of the Youth Bureau (which includes School Liaison Officers)
- Community Resources Officer eliminated (which will include all School Outreach Programs)
- Elimination of School Resource Officer
- Reduction of Detectives assigned to the Detective Bureau (from 24 to 8)
- The reduction of 20 Firefighter positions
- The permanent closure of Fire Station 4 on 15 Mile west of Schoenherr
- The intermittent closure of Fire Station 5 on Ryan north of 18 Mile. This closure is anticipated to occur 40-60% of the time depending on illness/ injury of the workforce and the use of benefit time.
- A drastic increase in the average response times in Station 4 and Station 5 areas (42% of the City). From an average of near 4 minutes to an average of over 8 minutes. An increase in average response times of at least 2 minutes for the other 58% of the City. This takes into consideration the first incident that is receive in these areas; additional incidents will face possible average response times in excess of 10 minutes.
- The need to send all on-duty personnel to every structure fire or significant incident leaving no apparatus in service to handle any additional incidents
The elimination and reduction of services will fundamentally change the scope of services offered by the Sterling Heights Police and Fire Departments and will require the Departments to operate in a reactive mode, rather than a proactive mode. As a result, Sterling Heights solid reputation as a “great city to live, work, and play in” will be affected greatly.