By Carolyn Marnon – The second of four neutral information meetings about the upcoming South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority (SMORSA) issue on the August ballot was held on June 29 at the Wayne Public Library. The room was filled with concerned residents who came to get the latest information on SMORSA and to have their questions answered.
Community Development Director Lori Fodale moderated the meeting. Police Chief Al Maciag, Mayor Susan Rowe, Contracted Finance Director Tim McCurley, City Manager Lisa Nocerini and Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane were among those who were available to answer questions.
Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane told the audience that SMORSA started when he was reflecting one evening on how Michigan had failed local governments. Michigan has underfunded local governments for a number of years. He wondered what would happen if a new public authority was created that didn’t actually consolidate services. Hazel Park was a community that was also facing the challenge of reducing services or finding a way to expand revenue. Eastpointe and Hazel Park came together to form SMORSA. The millage passed in both cities. SMORSA has been very successful for them. They have found that residents are not paying much more in taxes as a result of SMORSA than they were in 2008 before home values decreased so drastically. It’s been successful “because they (residents) invested in their community,” said Steve.
When asked what he dislikes about SMORSA, Steve said it would be the cost. “No one likes to spend more,” but Eastpointe residents were able to get two more police officers on the street. “There isn’t going to be a sudden blast of intelligence in Lansing.” Steve told the audience, “Nobody else is going to help you if you don’t help yourself.”
If the millage passes on August 2, it will go into effect with the winter taxes which are billed in December.
One audience member wanted to know if there would be enough money to hire good quality police officers. Chief Maciag noted the financial status of the city has been a challenge in hiring. Jobs are so plentiful right now that new recruits want to go to a city where they can stay. City Manager Lisa Nocerini commented that with no health care and no pension, why would anyone want to put their life on the line and be encouraged to work in Wayne? If the millage passes, this could be a key to getting a more productive police department. With the funding, the city would have the funding to pay for new officers for the next 18 years.
Lisa told the crowd, “I’m not acting like SMORSA will pass. That would be irresponsible.” She is currently taking all steps she can to decrease costs in the city.
If SMORSA does not pass on August 2, Mayor Susan Rowe said the city had an exit strategy in place. On August 3 the mayor and city council would request a financial review from the state treasurer. An emergency manager would probably be sent to Wayne and then the city would have no say in what would be done. “Everyone has to make a decision on August 2,” Mayor Rowe said. “It didn’t take us one year to get here, and it won’t take one year to get out.”
The next neutral information meeting will be July 13 at New Hope Baptist Church from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
City of Wayne resolutions regarding SMORSA
The City Council has passed two resolutions regarding SMORSA at their most recent meetings.
The first resolution states that if SMORSA passes, the City Council will rollback General Operating mills under certain conditions: 1) each year, the City of Wayne shall review budget projections as part of the budget process to determine if the General Fund is financially stable, and 2) the City will review the projected General Fund cumulative fund balance to determine if after consideration of projections for revenue and expenses, there is a minimum projected cumulative fund balance reserve of 20% and 3) upon completion of the fiscal year and after the audit is complete, the City shall rollback up to 5 operating mills for the subsequent fiscal year by an amount identified as excess revenue based on the process established in number 1 and number 2 above, and 4) the budget review and implementation process shall take place each fiscal year.
The second resolution states that if SMORSA passes, the City Council will authorize the hiring of additional staff for the safety of the public. This includes one firefighter per shift for a total of three firefighters and one police officer per shift for a total of four police officers.