Outlying townships' interest waning as four-party agreement for countywide transit nears consensus
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved its end of the agreement at its August meeting. It would have been the last step necessary to allow the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Board to file the articles of incorporation for the new authority - but the commissioners voted 6-4 to approve an amendment to the articles.
That means the four-party agreement vote reset: The Ann Arbor City Council approved the amended agreement in its meeting Thursday.
As a part of its special meeting Tuesday, the Ypsilanti City Council will have the opportunity to vote. The AATA Board of Directors also must rubber-stamp the change.
Once all four parties are in agreement, the AATA board can request the county clerk to file the articles of incorporation. After the filing date, municipalities have 30 days to opt out.
Salem, Sylvan, Bridgewater, Saline and Northfield townships chose to opt out from the beginning and declined to submit representatives to the unincorporated countywide transit authority board — often called the u196 board.
For most of the remaining outlying townships, officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Overall, operating and capital expenses of the five-year program total $217.8 million. That's offset by $185.9 million in estimated revenue, resulting in a $31.9 million gap.
The 0.5 mill tax to cover the gap - a number proposed by a financial task force - is the main deterrent for the townships. The tax would cost a homeowner of a house with a taxable vale of $100,000 about $50 per year, according to an earlier report from a financial task force.
AATA officials can’t speak in specifics yet as to how municipalities that decide to opt out of the county-wide authority would affect millage rates for those involved.
Rates in the future will depend on a case-by-case basis.
“If a community opts out, then no service would be provided (or expended) there,” wrote AATA spokeswoman Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz in an email to AnnArbor.com.
However, the level of service and funding asked for by the countywide authority is to be determined by the new board.
While Superior Township has not expressed interest in opting out of the authority yet, officials say that the township residents would not support a millage.
“If nine out of 10 people of your township is not going to be utilizing this it’s unlikely that it would pass out here,” Superior Township Supervisor William McFarlane said of the millage.
Manchester Township has yet to express its wish to opt out, but township Supervisor Ron Mann said it’s possible that the board will vote to opt out.
“With what we know about the plan, and the half-mill and how much money that would take out of the township, the feeling of the board is that the return to the township wouldn’t be there,” Mann said. The millage would raise about $85,000 from Manchester Township, Mann said.
Northfield Township offered the same explanation for why they opted out.
“We would like to see more of a scaled-down plan and one that’s not so elaborate,” said Northfield Township Supervisor Deb Mozurkewich. “If you took the amount of millage that came out of Northfield Township I don’t think we’d be getting the amount of service that we’d be paying for.”
Mozurkewich said she would have liked to see the expansion of the transit authority funded through vehicle registration fees.
In a written document from Bridgewater Township officials expressing their opinion on the Transit Master Plan, they offered the explanation as to why they declined to send a representative to the u196 board:
“The transit plan seeks to sustain a branch of government while there are people eating dog food throughout Washtenaw County.”
AATA will be issuing a plan in September to present to communities in Washtenaw County to give them a sense of AATA’s plans.
The document will be a revised version of its 5-Year Transit Improvement plan that integrates public comment received in May, and will include an overview of existing services, proposed service expansions, fares, ticketing, future improvement plans, governance and funding.
- Read a copy of the 5-year plan, issued in April, here: 5-Year-Program_AATA.pdf