Novi City Council urging regional leaders to put regional transit tax on November ballot

By Mark Cavitt, mcavitt@digitalfirstmedia.com,, @MarkCavitt on Twitter / The Oakland Press

Novi City Council sent a message Monday night that the people of southeast Michigan should be able to decide.

A resolution, passed by a 4-3 vote Monday night, urges regional leaders, specifically those serving on the 9-member Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan Board of Directors, to approve the “Connect Southeast Michigan” regional transit plan and place a regional transit tax on the November ballot.

Council members Gwen Markham, Andrew Mutch, Kelly Breen and Laura Marie Casey all voted in favor of the resolution while Mayor Bob Gatt, David Staudt, and Wayne Wrobel all voted against it.

The plan calls for a regional transit tax of 1.5 mill ($1.50 per $1,000 of a home’s taxable value) and would raise $5.4 billion over 20 years, leveraging an additional $1.3 billion in rider fee, state and federal revenues to support upgrades in transit and mobility for southeast Michigan.

The plan was first presented to RTA officials in March by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. It has since been reviewed by members of the public at various RTA-hosted public forums across the region.

Novi is one of 25 opt-out communities in Oakland County, which does not receive transit services from SMART, the region’s public transit provider. Resident living in the 34 opt-in communities pay $1 per $1,000 of taxable value tax annually to receive those services.

Based on 2017 taxable values along with a four percent county taxable value growth, year-over-year, Novi taxpayers would contribute around $162 million over the 20-year lifespan of the tax, third among all county communities behind Bloomfield ($167 million) and Troy ($217 million). The county would contribute $2.56 billion in property taxes over 20 years.

Gatt said although he supports upgrades in regional transit, this “Connect Southeast Michigan” transit plan makes no guarantees about what each community will receive from their investment.

“I’m not against mass or regional transit,” said Gatt. “I think it’s a great idea. We should have been looking at this years ago but I want a plan that’s fair and equal. I want a plan that will show a return on investment. This plan will take $5 million from Novi taxpayers in the first year but what are we guaranteed to receive from that? The answer is nothing.”

READ THE RESOLUTION: https://www.scribd.com/document/381092478/Novi-City-Council-Regional-Transit-Resolution

Gatt said he hasn’t closed the door on opting-into SMART, but says the city can adjust to the needs of its residents, and those that use public transportation to get to the city for work, by upgrading their own city-run public transportation system.

“We have moved at the council table to expand our own city-wide transportation services,” said Gatt. “I would like to see the city have our services expanded while working with employers to help their employees get to they need to get to. I don’t want to discard the fact that SMART riders have to get off at 12 Mile and Haggerty and walk to work. I don’t like that. We can fix this issue for a lot cheaper than the RTA is proposing.”

Councilwoman Kelly Breen said she supported the resolution as it was a simple request to let the people vote.

“While I understand the concerns from my colleagues on the merits of the proposal, this was a request to put it on the ballot,” said Breen. “Two years ago, the residents of Novi voted down a similar proposal by less than 900 votes. Circumstances change, and this proposal has the potential to help a lot of people.

She said it’s important that each voter becomes educated on the regional transit proposal in order to make the best decision. She said there are thousands of people that come to Novi for work, to visit parks and restaurants, as well as conventions, events, family and friends.

“It is their right to then cast a vote reflecting that decision,” said Breen. Novi is not an island. If we can create a system that provides reliable transportation for people to get to work, allow employers to choose employees from a larger pool of talent, get some cars off the road, ease congestion, expand senior transit and get folks to and from the airport, that sounds like a win to me.” The city currently provides its senior population, and others needing transportation, local transit services funded through taxpayer dollars.

Jeff Muck, the city’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services, said individual routes as well as pickup and drop off locations change daily based on rider needs.

“I am proud of the transportation services we provide and, as with all our services, we are always looking for ways to better serve the Novi community,” said Muck.

OAKLAND COUNTY TAX IMPACT AND BUSINESS CONCERNS WITH CURRENT PLAN: https://www.scribd.com/document/381096041/CONNECT-SOUTHEAST-MICHIGAN-TRANSIT-PLAN-Financial-and-Business-Concerns-for-Oakland-County

ABOUT THE PLAN

CONNECT SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN PLAN: https://www.scribd.com/document/373956466/Connect-Southeast-Michigan-transit-plan

OAKLAND COUNTY PROPERTY TAX CONTRIBUTIONS BY COMMUNITY: https://www.scribd.com/document/381068000/OAKLAND-COUNTY-PROPERTY-TAX-CONTRIBUTION-BY-COMMUNITY

CONNECT SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN TRANSIT PLAN FINANCIALS FOR OAKLAND-COUNTY: https://www.scribd.com/document/381068352/CONNECT-SOUTHEAST-MICHIGAN-TRANSIT-PLAN-FINANCIALS-OAKLAND-COUNTY

CONNECT SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN TRANSIT PLAN FINANCIALS FOR REGION: https://www.scribd.com/document/381068558/CONNECT-SOUTHEAST-MICHIGAN-TRANSIT-PLAN-FINANCIALS-FOR-REGION

CONNECT SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN PLAN FINANCIAL ANALYSIS OVERVIEW:

https://www.scribd.com/document/380974131/Connect-Southeast-Michigan-Financial-Analysis