The City of Howell will likely pursue a Headlee Override request for the ballot in the November election, as the state’s fiscal model and local revenue challenges have put the municipality in a tight spot financially.

Howell City Council gathered Monday for a work session regarding the city’s 2018-2019 budget with a focus on revenue. The lack thereof is said to be the biggest budget challenge and generating more revenue is something the municipality “can’t grow its way out of” by way of development, according to Mayor Nick Proctor.

City Manager Shea Charles says they’ve already made significant cuts in the past, now running with a staff that’s “stretched very thin” despite their sacrifices during the recession, like a seven-year wage freeze and lowered benefits. Charles says the city is not unique in its financial troubles, citing the state's "broken fiscal model" as a major player in almost all Michigan communities facing hardships. Charles says that combined with millage rollbacks, legacy costs and continued under-funding of statutory revenue sharing. Placing a positive lens on their situation, Councilman Andrew Yost says, "The fact that we're up against this wall right now is really a testament to how fiscally responsible we have been."

At the budget workshop, council members discussed bringing a Headlee Override request before voters in November of 2018 or May of 2019 to boost revenue. If approved, the Override would return the City to a higher, previous level of taxation. Council ultimately decided to move forward with placing the request to levy 20 mills for five years on the November ballot. The generated funds would be used for infrastructure improvements and maintaining existing city services.

City Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 25th, at which time Charles says they’ll recap the budget discussion and layout a schedule, which may include public forums to educate voters on the basis of the city’s request. City leaders are hoping for significant attendance, as Proctor says, “We need to convey the seriousness of our revenue problem.” (DK)