Area Oakland County township boards take aim at RTA plans

By David Fleet
Editor
Groveland Twp.-On Monday night the township board of trustees voted 5-0 to support a resolution in opposition to House Bill 5229 and the Regional Transit Authority proposal.
The RTA goal, created in 2012 included the City of Detroit, Macomb, Oakland, Wayne and Washtenaw counties is to create a region with sufficient and secure funding to support enhanced public transportation options for residents. The role of the RTA will be to link communities where gaps in bus service exists. However, under HB 5229, Macomb County will be exempted from the RTA.
“The supervisors of Oakland County have been very vocal in opposing this bill,” said Bob DePalma, township supervisor.
If the RTA and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners decides 1.2 mills will not generate adequate tax revenue, due to Macomb County’s exemption, HB 5229 will still allow the RTA millage to be increased up to 5 mills. In 2016, voters in Wayne and Washtenaw counties approved a tax to create rapid transit lines and modern rail service while Oakland and Macomb counties opposed it.
“The tax that has been bantered around for this is more than you and I pay to operate your own township,” he said. “The amount of benefit we would get out of this is non existent or very close to non existent.”
DePalma said with an estimated 1.2 mill tax increase township residents would get about a $135 tax increase. “With this transit system, and what all the supervisors on the north of M-59 felt, this money is just a method to steal money from the north end and fund what ever they want to do on the south end,” he said.
The HB 5229 will enable the RTA to proceed without an established millage rate, definitive transportation, infrastructure plan, without a specific list of associated costs and without a viable long-term operations business plan.
DePalma added that if two of the three counties in the RTA jurisdiction, Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw pass the millage it will go through regardless.
Bill Mullan, media and communications officer for Oakland County Executive David Coulter said currently there is no set plan for the RTA.
“Our goal is to put the best transit plan before Oakland County residents for consideration because County Executive Coulter believes that our region needs stronger regional transit for business attraction, job growth, getting employees to jobs, supporting our growing senior population, and attracting young people who desire walkable, transit-friendly communities,” said Mullan.
“We continue to review previous proposals, look to new and innovative ideas for technology enhancements and on-demand service, and talk to residents, business leaders, and city leaders. We are trying to better understand current local services, current employment and employer needs, and existing capacity to serve seniors and the disabled throughout the county.”
“At the same time, we hope the legislature will consider revising the Municipal Partnership Act to provide a tool for regional partnerships on transit and other issues,” he said. “Unfortunately, opposition to the legislative fix for the Municipal Partnership Act is driven by inaccurate information, including the false narrative that there will be a huge tax increase. Ultimately, the decision will rest with the voters of Oakland County.”
While a proposed date for a vote in November is under consideration—it could take longer.
“We’re going to get this plan right,” he added. “If all goes well a November vote would work, but we do not want to rush.”
On Jan. 6, the Brandon Board of Trustees voted 7-0 to vote in favor of the opposition to the RTA proposal.
“RTA is proposing a tax of 1.5 mills for regional transit that would potentially be available to some areas of southern Oakland County,” said Kathy Thurman, township supervisor. “Comparatively, Brandon Township levies less than 1 mill to operate the Township. Under this proposed plan, the northern Oakland County communities would be subsidizing the cost of bus service for southern Oakland, Wayne County and Detroit. Residents in Brandon are already paying more taxes than the majority of jurisdictions in Oakland County because rural living is expensive. We don’t need another senseless tax.”