By David Fleet
Groveland Twp. — On Aug. 10, the Oakland County Board of Commissions OK’d ballot language for a 10-year county-wide transit millage on the Nov. 8 ballot.
The 0.95 mill, which is expected to raise $66.2 million in the first year, would replace three existing transit millages.
The Oakland County commissioners passed the millage language with a 13 to 7 vote with two republicans Karen Joliat representing the Village of Clarkston, as well as portions of Independence and Waterford townships along with Michael Gingell, representing the City of Lake Angelus, Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion, joining in on the yes vote. Commissioner Tom Kuhn, (R), did not vote.
Seventh District Commissioner Bob Hoffman, (R) who represents Groveland Township voted no.
“I’m very disappointed and upset following this 11th hour emergency meeting vote” said Hoffman. “They want to extract $3.2 million from the taxpayers of the 7th Distinct for something that’s no benefit to us. We know here in the 7th what our needs are.”
“This millage is going to hurt a lot of people,” he added. “We don’t need the county managing our district. The government is overreaching and there is not even a plan yet for the project.”
The measure would eliminate opt-outs in the county, jurisdictions that don’t participate in or provide property tax revenue to fund SMART.
The 0.95-mill measure would fund the county’s SMART service, the most visible transit system outside the city of Detroit.
Township Supervisor Bob DePalma strongly opposed the millage.
“For a township like us there’s no opt out,” said DePalma. “We will be completely a donor with absolutely no benefit and no option to get out. This is being pushed through by the (Oakland) county commissioners, but not all of them. We are not going to get diddly-squat out of this. They are going to tax our residents almost the same amount that we pay to run the whole township. It’s going to go to mass transit and we are going to get nothing.”
“If you look at 0.95 mills for the average home in the township, that’s going to be about $185 (on a $200,000 home) a year tax increase,” said DePalma. “I don’t like this, I don’t agree with it, they won’t give us an opt out, but we are going to get this jammed down our throats.”
Megan Owens, executive director of the advocacy group Transportation Riders United, said the Connect Oakland plan proposed by the Oakland County Commission is about Oakland County funding the mobility options for each community.
“The goal is to ensure none of our Oakland neighbors are ever trapped at home because they can’t drive,” said Owens. “A growing number of our elderly neighbors can no longer safely drive but want to remain in their homes. Sometimes family or friends can provide rides, but not always.”
“Right now, NOTA will take their residents to destinations in Brandon Township, but Brandon residents cannot use it,” she said. “If this countywide transit measure is passed, NOTA is likely to expand throughout Brandon and Groveland townships, ensuring your elderly neighbors have a safe, independent way to get to their doctor, grocery store, and elsewhere.”
By David Fleet