The Brighton City Council last night unanimously approved going to the voters with a Headlee override request in order to fund badly needed street projects.

On the ballot in August will be a proposal to override the Headlee amendment, which restricts property tax increases to 5% or the rate of inflation – whichever is less. If approved, that would allow the city to levy an additional 4.35 mills, which would bring the millage levy up to the voter-approved charter limit of 20 mills.

City officials say the problem is that when the recession hit in 2008, property values in the city took a nosedive, and thus city revenues declined sharply, necessitating a virtual ending of the city’s street program. As a result, the condition of city streets has deteriorated to the point where 75% of all residential streets in the city vary from poor to failing. City officials say the millage is a way to bring the condition of city streets back up to acceptable levels.

If approved by the voters, the proposal would result in $1.85 million in new revenue the first year. The ballot proposal is open-ended, with no expiration date. Mayor Jim Muzzin tells WHMI that council reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was no alternative other than to ask city residents to approve the Headlee override.

City residential property owners currently pay 15.65 mills. Compared to what they paid in city taxes before the recession, the average increase would be $258 per year. Members also approved a motion to refer the wording to the city attorney and staff, with the ballot language then going to the Livingston County Clerk’s Office for approval.

The tax increase wouldn’t appear on tax bills until July of 2019. Council also approved a motion for staff to develop a public education campaign letter which will be mailed to city residents. (TT)