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Mount Clemens

August 6, 2014

Mount Clemens passes crucial tax increase

By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer

MOUNT CLEMENS — In a 55-to-44 percent margin, Mount Clemens voters on Aug. 5 approved a charter amendment that will allow city officials to increase its maximum millage rate from 15 mills to 20 mills for general municipal purposes, including fire and law enforcement.

The approval comes in the nick of time as the cash-strapped community was on the verge to bankruptcy.

Interim City Manager Robert Bruner, whose last day with the city is Aug. 8, said passage of the increase means a “better future” for Mount Clemens.

“I think it’s a great day for the community,” he said the day after the election. “I was really pleased that I was able to be a part of it.”

The city’s rainy day fund is depleting — general fund expenditures in the fiscal year 2014-15 exceeded revenues by approximately $1.1 million, which forced officials to take money from its $3.5 million reserves fund, dropping it to $1.7 million for 2015, to maintain the status quo for service levels.

“Now that we know the amendment has passed, they will be able to increase the millage rate next year and will be able to go about our business and make no cuts. It basically gives the city more time and more breathing room to plan for the next fiscal year and the fiscal years ahead.”

Had the proposal failed, Bruner said the city would have been forced to request the Michigan Department of Treasury review the state of the city to determine whether or not it is in a financial emergency, which would have either led to bankruptcy or Gov. Rick Snyder would had to have brought in an emergency manager.

According to Bruner, the cause of the financial problem was due to the city’s two largest revenue sources decreasing dramatically during the recent Great Recession. Property taxes decreased by more than 30 percent, while State Revenue Sharing decreased by more than 50 percent. City officials cut expenses by nearly a third, $4.3 million, in recent years, but the cuts have not been deep enough to balance the budget.

City Commissioner Joe Rheker voiced opposition to the charter amendment from the get-go because, he said, it wasn’t what his constituents wanted.

“I voted against it, but I did not campaign against it,” he said. “And I encouraged my constituents to get out and vote.

“I’m happy with the results; that it was decisive,” Rheker added. “Our community has spoken.”