Wyandotte City Council members reached a compromise Monday night that will allow for residents to decide if they want to pay higher taxes in lieu of having city services cut.
The amount of the millage, however, has dropped from 3 mills to 1.75 mills.
Four council members had already signed off on putting a three-year, 3-mill ballot question before voters. However, the measure needed the support of at least five council members to legally be placed on the ballot.
Council members James DeSana and Sheri Sutherby-Fricke and said they had no interest in changing their vote.
When Councilman Daniel Galeski suggested the lower millage amount at Monday’s meeting, it received unanimous support.
The ballot language still needs the approval from the state of Michigan, but City Attorney William Look said he sees no issues that would cause the state to deny it.
If it gets the go-ahead from Lansing, the 1.75-mill question will be put before Wyandotte voters during a special Nov. 8 election. If approved, it will cost the average homeowner about $85 a year for three years, according to City Administrator Todd Drysdale.
The issue got heated Monday morning when about 10 marched outside , urging DeSana and Sutherby-Fricke . The firefighters returned in the evening and marched outside City Hall before the 7 p.m. council meeting. Then, they crowded into the standing-room only council meeting to see how the vote went down.
Sutherby-Fricke said she never intended to deny residents the right to vote. However, she said, she couldn’t in good conscience go along with a 3-mill ballot issue before first researching all other options at offsetting the city’s estimated $1.4 million budget shortfall.
Councilman Todd Browning, who supported putting the millage before voters from the onset, said he’s happy his colleagues changed their mind to allow residents the opportunity to decide.
Because the millage rate was lowered, however, it’s only estimated to bring in about $1 million a year if passed. That’s $400,000 less than the city’s projected deficit, meaning city officials will still have to cut costs in other areas.
That’s OK by Browning, who said it was never the city’s intention to bank solely on a millage request without also making some tough choices.
“This council will continue to look for concessions,” he said. “It’s going to be easier to cut positions through attrition rather than layoffs.”