Howell City Council Votes Down Public Safety Assessment
May 8, 2018
A Headlee Override request will greet voters in the City of Howell in November.
Council met Monday night and to the satisfaction of the crowd, voted down a motion to pass a public safety assessment. Mayor Nick Proctor was the deciding vote during the packed meeting, drawing applause and cheers from those in attendance. Proctor joined members Michael Mulvahill, Jan Lobur and Andrew Yost in opposition. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor, Bob Ellis and Scott Niblock were in support. Over 100 residents and business owners attended the meeting and most all who spoke opposed the proposed assessment. It would have generated additional revenue for the police budget, freeing up other revenues to fund necessary infrastructure projects. Since the assessment failed, Council is expected to put a Headlee Override proposal on the November ballot. It will be a larger request than the proposed assessment at four mills and generate approximately $1.2 (m) million.
Mayor Nick Proctor told the audience that in analyzing the options, they felt the three mill assessment would be more palatable than four mills, but he was further fearful it would be voted down and scared they would not be able to sustain the Howell he loves.
Many residents threatened recalls and signed petitions protesting the assessment that were provided to Council. The majority of those who spoke during the meeting opposed the assessment based on the overall process, what they felt was short notice, the belief they could not write off the new assessment on their taxes, and the large impact to those on fixed incomes. Business owner John Cleary told Council that people are struggling and damage could be more than just financial and turn the town upside down. Other residents cited case law and their personal interpretations of the public assessment law, which prompted resident Karen Davis to speak out. Davis said she was offended by people coming to the podium acting as if they know law better than the city attorney. She further commented that Council was not trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, as the issue has been heavily discussed and people need to do their duty as a citizen, attend meetings or read minutes so they actually know what’s going on.
City officials say a broken state fiscal model, continued reduced state revenue sharing, and a variety of other factors have come together to create the perfect financial storm for not only Howell but municipalities across the state. It was noted the current path is not sustainable and the options are simply to either raise revenue or make serious cuts. Members all agreed valid points were made on both sides of the issue and it was not an easy decision but the City remains at a financial crossroads.
Councilman Scott Niblock said he would rather suffer the wrath of residents than implement drastic cuts and change the overall fabric of the city.
Pro-Tem Steve Manor stated he considered the best long term interest of the city as a whole in supporting the assessment, stressing staff and Council have worked hard to address revenue problems, made large cuts and adopted a lot of efficiencies. Councilman Bob Ellis echoed those thoughts, saying he doesn’t want to make cuts that would impact quality of life and allow the City to deteriorate. Mayor Proctor cautioned the crowd that should the ballot measure fail, drastic cuts will be implemented across the board.
Some residents suggested Council eliminate the police department, as the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office could provide the same level of police services for less money. Council is not on board with that option and has cited numerous benefits of having control over a local department but also noted that when final numbers are hammered out, the cost is quite similar.
Detailed information regarding fiscal situation the City is facing is available online through the link below. (JM)