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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the millage proposal?
    The proposal, which Council unanimously approved, would amend the City Charter to allow the City Council to levy up to 3.0 additional mills in taxes, which translates to $3.00 for every $1,000 of taxable value.
    At least half of the millage, if levied by the Council, must be used for Capital Improvements, such as streets and sidewalks, water and sewer lines, parks and park restrooms, bridges, walking trails, bike paths, streetscapes and large apparatus like fire trucks.
    The remainder of any amount levied will address General Operating expenditures. This includes public safety, public works, administration, recreation and culture, economic and community development and district court.
    The millage would be levied beginning with the 2019 summer tax bill and would expire in 10 years.

The formal proposal as it will appear on the ballot:

This amendment authorizes the annual levy of not to exceed 3.0 mills for 10 years. Approval would increase the tax levy by up to 3.0 mills as new additional millage in excess of the limitation imposed by law, restoring a portion of the Charter millage authorization previously reduced by the Headlee Amendment. If levied, 3.0 mills would raise approximately $1,034,000 in the first year of the levy. At least half (1.5 mills) must be used for capital improvements or projects, such as infrastructure, parks and facilities, pathways, and large apparatus within the City.

  1. What will the cost of the millage be to me?
    The average taxpayer would pay $225 more per year, or $18.75 per month. This estimate is based on an average home value of $190,000, and average state equalized value of $95,000, and an average taxable value of $75,000.
    www.farmgov.com/millage features a millage proposal calculator. Here, you can input the taxable value of your home and it will calculate the approximate cost of a 3-mill increase.
    This amendment authorizes the annual levy of not to exceed 3.0 mills for 10 years. Approval would increase the tax levy by up to 3.0 mills as new additional millage in excess of the limitation imposed by law, restoring a portion of the Charter millage authorization previously reduced by the Headlee Amendment. If levied, 3.0 mills would raise approximately $1,034,000 in the first year of the levy. At least half (1.5 mills) must be used for capital improvements or projects, such as infrastructure, parks and facilities, pathways, and large apparatus within the City.
  2. Why is the City requesting this millage now?
    The City is requesting this millage now because increased funding is needed for capital improvements and general operations.
    Traditionally, many capital Improvements in the City were paid for using general operating surpluses. With the Great Recession, and the resulting decrease in property tax and state shared revenues, this source of funding has been lost. Currently, the City has limited funding sources for streets, sidewalks, and water and sewer lines, but more is needed long-term. Additionally, the City has no funding sources for parks, pathways, facilities, public safety equipment, parking lots, and streetscapes.
    The City’s general operations have changed over the last 10 years from an operating surplus to an operating deficit. The reason for this is that over the last 10 years, the City’s general operating revenues have only increased by $23,000, while operating expenditures have increased by $670,000 (the $670,000 increase is less than the rate of inflation). Operating expenditures are now higher than revenues, which means that the City is spending its savings in order to continue providing services at the level residents and businesses expect. Over the next five years, general operating expenditures are expected to exceed revenue by an average of $450,000 per year. At that rate, the City’s fund balance (its “savings account”) will be depleted by 2023 (in five years).
  3. How have the City’s revenues changed over the last 10 years?
    Basically, property taxes decreased dramatically during the Great Recession and have not rebounded. In fact, on average, residents are paying 18.6% less in property taxes than they were paying 10 years ago. Additionally, the City has lost millions of dollars in revenue sharing that the State has diverted from the City for other priorities.
  4. How have the City’s expenditures changed over the last 10 years?
    The City’s annual expenditures over the last 10 years, have increased less than the rate of inflation. While the City has taken steps over the years to reduce costs (see further explanation below), any cost savings have been offset by rising pension costs, which will continue to have a significant effect on the City.
    Like many municipalities, the City offers a pension plan to most of its employees. This plan has traditionally been well funded at a reasonable cost to the City. However, several factors over the last decade have negatively impacted the pension system, including the stock market crash during the Great Recession, historically low interest rates, increased longevity of retirees, and shorter required funding periods. As a result, based on the City’s latest actuarial report, the City’s yearly employer contributions are anticipated to increase from $676,000 per year for the 2018-19 fiscal year to $1,020,000 for the 2024-25 fiscal year. The City has and will continue to do everything it can to contain pension costs, but much of what is driving pension costs up is difficult for the City to control in the short term.
  5. What has the City done over the past 10 years to reduce costs?
    • Reduce Staff – 12 full-time staff positions out of 60 were eliminated. Some of those positions were filled with part-time employees, including five professional part-time employees, plus a number of Public Safety cadets.
    • Reduce Pay and Benefits for Employees – Over the last 10 years, City employees have received, on average, a 1 percent salary increase. That’s less than a cost-of-living increase. Out of nine communities determined by a court to be comparable to Farmington, our Public Safety Officers are the fourth lowest paid, and our Commanders are the lowest paid. Healthcare and retiree health care benefits have also been reduced.
    • Purchase Capital Items through Grants, Fundraising and Donations, as well as Seek to Purchase Used Equipment – IT infrastructure and computers were replaced through a State grant obtained through a collaboration with Farmington Hills. Warner Mansion repairs and Quaker Cemetery renovations were funded with private donations. The most recent fire truck purchased by the City was a used piece of equipment refurbished to meet our standards. Volunteers have also pitched in to help fix the ballfield fencing.
    • Defer Necessary Capital Expenses – Road and sidewalk conditions have deteriorated over the last 10 years; public bathrooms in the city parks need improvements; and municipal buildings have leaking roofs and windows, and facades are also in need of repair.
    • Delay Optional Capital Projects – Efforts that could improve the desirability and quality of life in Farmington have been delayed. Among others, these include the Farmington Road streetscape and improvements to the Shiawassee, Drake, and Riley parks.
  6. Did the City request community input regarding the millage?
    The City reached out to the community through two community forums held on April 26 and May 16, 2018.
    Following the forums, surveys were conducted to measure the reactions of participants. “Option 3 – Provide a long-term fix for General Operations and funding for Capital Improvement projects that would improve the desirability and quality of life in Farmington” – was the most supported choice.
    • Option 1 – Cut services including a public safety position, street lighting, senior services, parks and recreation, youth programs, Governor Warner Mansion, ice rink, etc. to temporarily balance the budget. That would result in no millage increase.
    • Option 2 – Temporarily fix General Operations expenses and provide basic funding for Capital Improvements with a 1 mill, non-expiring Operations millage, plus a 1 mill Capital Improvement millage that would expire in 10 years. This would be a 2 mill increase.
    • Option 3 – Provide a long-term fix for General Operations and funding for Capital Improvement projects that would improve the desirability and quality of life in Farmington. On this proposal, the 1.5 mill Operations millage would have no expiration, and the 1.5 mill Capital Improvement millage would expires in 10 years.
    Based on public feedback at two community forums, Council concluded that a modified version of Option 3 would be the best decision, and voted unanimously to put it on the November ballot. The initial Option 3 proposed by the City Administration was changed to allow a single levy of up to 3.0 mills, with at least half of the millage levied in any given year to be used for Capital Improvements. The entire 3.0 mill levy would expire in 10 years.
  7. What could happen if the proposal is not approved by voters?
    The City’s savings account would be depleted in 5 years.
    Residents would likely see a decline in the level of city services.
    The City’s bond rating would likely drop, making it more expensive to borrow money to finance future projects.
    As always, City Administration would continue to look for cost savings and revenue enhancements.
  8. How do the City of Farmington’s property taxes compare to other communities of similar size?
    There are 33 communities in metro Detroit that, like Farmington, have a population between 5,000 and 20,000. Of those communities, Farmington’s residential property tax rate is the 12th lowest, and its business property tax rate is the fourth lowest. If the 3.0 mill levy is approved, Farmington’s residential property tax rate would be the 14th lowest and its business property tax rate would be the seventh lowest.
  9. How has the City’s millage rate changed over the last 20 years?
    The City’s millage rate has both increased and decreased over the last 20 years. In 1999, the total millage rate was 15.1560. In 2018 it is 15.5000.
  10. Where can I find more information about the millage?
    www.farmgov.com/millage