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Posted on Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:52 a.m.

Sylvan Township plans another millage request for sewer and water debt

By Lisa Allmendinger

The Sylvan Township Board on Tuesday night unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that the county board approve a debt millage question for the Aug. 7 ballot.

Last November, township voters rejected a 20-year, 4.75 mill tax levy by 475 votes to 328 votes. That tax would have paid for about $13.2 million in sewer and water system debt payments as well as $1.25 million owed to the Washtenaw County treasurer.

The township owes about $5 million for a water system and $7.5 million for a sewer system, as well the money advanced by the county treasurer for water and sewer special assessment installments that were voided by court judgment.

The township only had enough money in its water and sewer funds to make the Nov. 11, 2011, interest-only payment of $175,000. This year, it will owe $350,000 split into two payments, the first due in May. In 2014, those payments will increase to $969,000 when the principal kicks in.

Without a millage, how much residents will have to pay each year will be decided by the courts. There have been estimates that it could be as much as 9 mills. And each year, a new judgment would be sought by the county through the courts for tax payment amounts.

The township board needs the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners’ approval to put another debt service millage on the ballot, but an exact amount and the duration of the millage won't be determined until the township’s equalization report is issued in April.

County Commissioner Rob Turner, who worked with the township to get the first millage question on the ballot, said that county Treasurer Catherine McClary has agreed to split over two years the $1.25 million owned to the treasurer’s office.

He said township residents were looking at about 9 mills in additional taxes in December, but it’s possible that by splitting the amount owed to the county treasurer that the millage could cut that to about 5.75 mills.

“If property values go up, then the millage rate would go down,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turner said that the Board of Commissioners will be “petitioning the township board for a consent judgment rather than a default judgment,” to keep costs of the taxpayers “as low as possible” should the millage proposal be rejected by voters.

A contract between the township and the county will have to be approved. The board plans to hire Umbaugh and Company, a financial consultant, to provide “the repayment schedules for the debt upon receipt of the new 2012 taxable value,” the resolution states.

“The Sylvan Township Board understands that ballot language will need to be completed and approved by Washtenaw County administration and the Washtenaw County Commissioners,” the resolution states. Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Chelsea area stories, visit our Chelsea page.



Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

First, we all need to vote no! Plenty of good reasons already here and I'll add more later. Second, time to name names. Arlene Grau, Luanne Koch and Reuben Lesser are the current board members who got us into this mess. They need to be voted out when they are up for re-election. The majority of residents did not want these services. We do not want high density development and do not want to become like Scio township to the east. We live here for the rural landscape and natural beauty of the Waterloo area and want to protect that. The whole mess was created for a couple of land developers to make some big bucks bringing in high density development nobody wants. It is amazing they get off free out this. If they had gone ahead with their plans, they would have lost huge amounts of money in the housing crash. They want to saddle this mess on the backs of the residents who never wanted it in the first place. We'll end up paying for it and in another year when Obama is thrown out and the economy improves, the developers will be back, the residents will be paying for the infrastructure and they get out of paying for the water and sewer built at their request and double their profits. Here is the best solution, sell the water and sewer to Chelsea, even at a big discount if needed. Let Chelsea annex the corn fields the developers own, which sit on the outskirts of Chelsea. They deserve to pay Chelsea tax rates for their role in this mess. If we the residents have to still pay a few mills to seal the deal, so be it. We can go on with our lives and not have to worry about even more high density development moving farther west. If we get rid of this infrastructure, it protects us in the long term and the City of Chelsea can be the city they want to be and have room for growth. Vote no on the tax increase.

Rod in Chelsea

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 3 p.m.

Mr Detroit Tiger, first, I have 2 questions for you. Do you attend the monthly township board meetings? Have you gone on the "free sylvan" website at all to read the WEALTH of info available to ALL SYLVAN TAXPAYERS?? All of this info is non bias truthful info that has been gathered by that group. Much info never before available to Sylvan residents is there. 1) The potential buyer is the city of Chelsea. They have expressed an interest in the water tower and also offered to take over our sewer system with Sylvan paying for the parts while the city does maintenance. 2) The "guaranteed" rate is 4.75 mills over 20 years. We have already been told that the increase over that will not amount to a great deal and we were given that approximate rate. And if you think about it, how much more can we be assessed than that extra .75 to 1.25 mills?? And that will lower the years we have to pay from 20 to approximately 15. BIG savings for us all. 3) I could not agree more with you that this will create a hardship for some people. But if they will have a hardship with 4.75, that hardship will not be any greater with the slight millage increase of approximately $75 to $125 more PER YEAR. Remember, 1 mill is equal to $100 on $100,000. That is per year. So this would be about $10 per month. Believe me Detroit Tiger, I know this will hurt some. But I feel that the pain can be much less with 5 less years to pay. If they budget for the high end, they will be fine. 4) As for selling your property, I am not sure when the "hurt" will get over for this township for selling property unless you are willing to basically give it away. If you feel that a float of 5.5 to 6.25 mills will hurt your sale, it will not hurt your sale any more than the 4.75 will. As for your last statement, I agree. But, we are NOT responsible for an elected government that hides things from the people that elected them. They should be held accountable from our president of the USA right down.

Rod in Chelsea

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

The web site really is only an informational web site for teh people of Sylvan. The group has been able to get MANY MANY documents that the township has kept hidden from us for years. They are truly NOT trying to slant anything one way or another but simply trying to get information out to the taxpayers. The county is the one that told us that. If you went to the board meetings you could have got that information yourself. I HIGHLY URGE YOU to attent board meetings and see for yourself how the township is (not) run. You may be correct about Chelsea but until we can negotiate with them, then we will never know. I was in the meeting with 2 representatives of the City where they told us the info I gave you. And you are also correct that we are left holding the bag. That is an even bigger reason to vote the current board out and get another board in that will give us transparency, honesty and integrity. We need that now more than anything as this board has NOT given us any of that.

Detroit Tiger

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 2:46 a.m.

Rod First I don't know if I trust any website that is created for the express purpose of giving info out that is slanted to their point of view. I am not saying it is neccessairly wrong, I just don't trust it. Second, whoever told you that the increase "won't amount to a great deal" how do they know that if a judge has to decide that every year? As for selling property, again, how do we know that it is only going to be a float of 5.5 to 6.25? As for the City wanting to buy the system, knowing them they will "talk" about that for years to come. And I agree with you that elected members should be held accountable, however at the end of the day the taxpayer is left holding the bill

Detroit Tiger

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

I have a couple of question for Mr. Branham: 1) Who is going to want to buy this "mess"? 2) How do you know that if it is voted down again, that the yearly percentage is only going to be 5.5 to 6.25? From what I understand a judge decides that yearly. 3) There are some people in the township who are going to face hardship to pay for this. It would be easier for them if they know up front how much to budget for taxes rather than have a different percentage every year. 4) I would like to sell my property in a few years. No one will be able to sell any property in the township if a potential buyer doesn't know how much property tax they are going to pay from year to year. I know I wouldn't. I agree it is a mess. However, in our form of elected government, the people are ultimately responsible for the actions of the government that they put in place.

Rod Branham

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

We were told at the board meeting last night (not by the board) that THERE WILL NOT BE A 9 MILL PAYMENT this year. It will only be about 5.50 to 5.75. So please DO NOT be intimidated if the township does try to tell you that the payment will be anything more than that. And even if we go year by year, the payment will still only be about 5.5 to 6.25 mills which is only about .75 to 1.25 mills greater than being stuck with a 20 year payment plan. And if you accept this vote, then you are agreeing that you, as a taxpayer accepts blame and responsibility for this mess!! Remember, the current board helped get us into this mess. Some of the current board members (3 of the 5 I believe) WERE on the board when this mess happened in the first place and did nothing to stop it or question it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE think long and hard about the vote. This is NOT in your best interest to accept.

Nature lover

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

Another vote? Haven't the voters already spoken on this issue? If this one fails, will there be yet another vote until it passes? Are they going to have 3 more town hall meetings to explain it? Get the word out to your friends and neighbors in Sylvan Townhip. Vote NO and send the township board a message.

Rod Branham

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

Another thing to remember if this vote passes is that no matter what happens, we will have to pay for the ENTIRE duration. There will be NO EARLY PAYOFF!! Even if we sold the water tower and sewer system to clear the debt, it would still remain that we have to pay for 20 years. We cannot, under ANY circumstances, pay it off early. Bottom line is they want the interest from us, the innocent taxpayers. If we sold the mess, the money would lay in the township coffers to pay the debt..........or would it?? They rob from peter to pay paul now. On the other hand, it is my understanding that if we let them tell us each year how much the millage will be, then if we sold this mess we COULD pay it off early! Everyone needs to remember that we did not create this mess and some "not so honest people" told some "untruths" to get this all in place. I for one am willing to take it year by year as the difference per year will be minimal and will allow for the payoff to take place earlier than 20 years.....more like 15 years. Just remember folks, 1 mill on $100,000 is only $100. Please think very hard about this before you vote.

Patrick Zieske

Wed, Feb 8, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

As reported, it is true that "if property values go up, then the millage rate would go down." But the amount paid would be the same. We all know what happens when your property assessment rises. 5 mills at an assessed value of $120,000 is the same as 6 mills at an assessed value of $100,000. Either way, you pay. Moreover, when your assessment rises, all the other millages on your tax bill go up too! There's going to be a lot of jiggling around with the numbers over the next few months. The facts remain, though, about who got us into this in the first place, how they got us into it, and how no effective action was taken until it was too late -- as they would have us believe. So who are we going to believe this time?