Shape the Future of Sterling Heights
What it means to you
In 2013, residents were afforded an opportunity to shape the future of the city of Sterling Heights through Safe Streets, a ballot proposal providing six years of dedicated funding for police and fire operations and neighborhood street improvements. By an overwhelming margin, voters approved Safe Streets, which has been a catalyst for transforming Sterling Heights since 2013.
With the expiration of Safe Streets in 2019, the City is at a critical juncture. The City can either continue its amazing momentum or reverse the progress made to date. If approved, the Safe Streets Renewal affords the City with the revenue needed to preserve excellent police and fire services and continue with an aggressive program for improving our neighborhood streets.
The Safe Streets Renewal is NOT a tax increase. It simply continues the dedicated millage for police and fire protection and neighborhood street improvements for an additional ten years.
The Safe Streets Renewal will authorize the City to continue to levy a total of 2.45 mills for 10 years - 1.65 mills for Police and Fire Protection and 0.8 mills for Neighborhood Streets.
The average homeowner currently pays $185 annually or $15 per month in city taxes due to the Safe Streets millage. This amount will not increase as a result of renewing the millage.
Why is the Safe Streets Renewal needed?
For the past six years, the Safe Streets dedicated millage has funded police and fire protection and neighborhood street improvements. Without this dedicated funding source, the Police Department would have 45 fewer police officers and the Fire Department would have 20 fewer firefighters to serve and protect. Only a fraction of the 152 neighborhood streets reconstructed and repaired throughout Sterling Heights since 2013 would have received attention. Because Safe Streets expires this fiscal year, the City has two options: (a) Seek voter-approval for a Safe Streets Renewal that will authorize the City to continue to levy 2.45 mills for ten years for Police and Fire Protection (1.65 mills) and Neighborhood Streets (0.8 mills); or, (b) Effectuate devastating personnel reductions in the Police and Fire Departments and forego much-needed repairs to neighborhood streets. The City Council has opted to once again let the voters decide the future course for the City on this critical, quality-of-life decision.
Why can't the City fund Police and Fire Protection and Neighborhood Street Improvements from current sources of revenue?
The system for funding municipalities and road projects in Michigan is broken and the Governor and Legislature cannot agree on how to fix this pervasive problem. For example, although Sterling Heights ranks highest in the state for certain categories of property valuation and assessments are rising annually at impressive rates, the City's resulting property tax revenues are largely capped by the annual rate of inflation under Michigan's Headlee Amendment. Maintaining outstanding Police and Fire protection services is very difficult when revenues grow 2% or less annually.
Eighty percent (80%) of the cost to reconstruct and repair neighborhood streets over the past six years was funded by Safe Streets. Recent proposals to fix the roads in Michigan could actually decrease the already inadequate funding currently provided to Sterling Heights for neighborhood streets. Simply put, the state funding model for municipalities and road improvements has not fundamentally changed and the Safe Streets Renewal is necessary if the City is going to provide the level of public services and improvements expected by its residents.
If approved by the voters, how much will the Safe Streets Renewal cost the average homeowner?
The average homeowner currently pays $185 per year in city taxes due to the Safe Streets millage. This equates to $15 per month or 51 cents per day. This amount will NOT increase as a result of the Safe Streets Renewal.
The overall millage rate for Sterling Heights will remain among the lowest of all Macomb County cities and lower than 56% of cities in the State of Michigan.
In fact, over the past 12 years property taxes for the average homeowner have only increased $26 annually. For that small annual increase, residents continue to benefit from exceptional public services from the Police Department, Fire Department and Department of Public Works, amazing new recreational amenities created under Recreating Recreation, and unprecedented efforts to reconstruct and repair major roads and neighborhood streets throughout Sterling Heights.
And all of this is accomplished with the one of the lowest City employee to City resident ratios in the State of Michigan. The City ratio of 3.7 employees per 1,000 residents is the lowest among comparable communities and significantly lower than other smaller cities. Ann Arbor, for example, has 6.5 employees per 1,000 residents, while Warren has a 5:3 ratio. Sterling Heights has streamlined processes and employed best practices and is a leader for cost effective government.
What is the impact if the Safe Streets Renewal fails?
Without the dedicated funding provided by the Safe Streets Renewal, the City will be forced to implement draconian cuts to staffing in the Police Department and Fire Department. The anticipated reduction of 45 police officers and 20 firefighters/paramedics will occur primarily through lay-offs since retirements will be minimal for the foreseeable future. The impact of these personnel reductions will be immediate and devastating to police and fire protection. The number of sworn police officers will decrease form 151 to 106. The City anticipates that the Police Department will change from a proactive to reactive policing agency. The Detective Bureau, Youth Bureau, Crime Suppression Unit, and Community Response Unit will be dramatically reduced in size or eliminated so personnel can be shifted to the Patrol Bureau. Community programs, including Community Outreach and Resident Engagement (CORE), Smart Moves, and High School Resource Officers, will be terminated. Bottom line, the City's ranking as one of the safest big cities in the United States will be in jeopardy when 30% of the sworn officers are eliminated.
The loss of 20 firefighters/paramedics would be equally devastating to the lifesaving services delivered on a daily basis by the Fire Department. The City anticipates closing one of the five fire stations and specialized apparatus will not be manned at current levels. Depending on 911 call volume, it is projected that the Fire Department's response times will increase from three to ten minutes in some cases.
For a city that has long-prided itself on the exceptional quality of its full-service Police and Fire Departments, the personnel reductions and the impact on the public safety must be seriously considered. There is no other long-term revenue source to fill the funding gap if the Safe Streets Renewal fails.
The significant progress the City has made in improving neighborhood streets over the past six years us due in large measure to Safe Streets. The Safe Streets Renewal will provide approximately $3.5 million of critical funding per year to reconstruct and repair an additional 250 neighborhood streets.
Wait, isn't the State going to increase the gas tax to fix the roads?
While the Governor has proposed a plan to raise gas taxes to increase road funding, NONE of that funding will help fix neighborhood streets. In fact, the City will actually LOSE road funding under the proposed plan. The City must continue to provide its own resources for the repair and improvement of neighborhood streets and the Safe Streets millage provides over 80% of that funding.
If the Safe Streets Renewal is approved, will other city departments benefit?
Not directly. However, by stabilizing Sterling Heights' financial condition, all city departments will be spared from budgetary cuts, which would compromise the delivery of quality public services. The Safe Streets Renewal eliminates the financial necessity to reduce services, and allows the City to maintain its focus on the continuous improvement of the overall quality of life for its residents and businesses. It is hard to deny the incredible transformation of Sterling Heights and it is important to stay on course with the Visioning 2030 strategic plan.
RENEWAL OF MILLAGE FOR POLICE AND FIRE PROTECTION AND LOCAL STREET IMPROVEMENTS
Shall the Sterling Heights Charter be amended to renew the authorization to levy a millage at a reduced rate of 2.45 mills for 10 years, from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2030, for the purpose of providing revenue for police and fire protection and local street improvements?
This renewed millage authorization shall be specifically dedicated as follows:
-1.65 mills for police and fire protection
-.80 mills for local street improvements
If authorized, the renewed millage will raise an estimated $11,025,000 in the first year if fully levied.
General Election Info
-The General Election featuring the Safe Streets Renewal ballot proposal and the races for mayor and city council will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.
-Residents may register to vote in person or by mail through October 21, 2019, or in person through Election Day, at the City Clerks Office.
-To verify that you are registered to vote, find your precinct, and view your sample ballot, visit the city's website (www.sterling-heights.net).
-New this Election: All registered voters are eligible to receive a absentee ballot. The last day to apply for and receive a ballot by mail is Friday, November 1, 2019 at 5 p.m. The City Clerk's Office will also be open Saturday, November 2, 2019 to issue absentee ballots in person.
-An absentee voter application is available on the city's website (www.sterling-heights.net) or call 586.446.2420. Your voted absentee ballot must be delivered to the City Clerk's Office by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Note: Remember to bring your valid ID to the polls. Those without proper ID will need to sign an affidavit of identity to receive a ballot.