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Posted on Wed, May 2, 2012 : 6:30 p.m.

Sylvan Township residents may get second vote on large debt millage

By Lisa Allmendinger

Sylvan Township voters may have a second say on whether to tax themselves for about $13.7 million in bond payments and taxes owned to the county.

But, that’s only if the Township Board and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners can agree on a millage amount and language before the May 15 deadline to have the question placed on the Aug. 7 ballot.


Sylvan Township Hall.

Lisa Allmendinger |

“The county is very interested in working with you on a millage and any agreements that would need to be worked up,” County Commissioner Rob Turner said at a Township Board meeting Tuesday night.

“Give us financial figures and ballot language and we can get the ball rolling," said Turner.

The township owes bonds totaling about $5 million for a water system and $7.5 million for a sewer system, as well as about $1.2 million to Washtenaw County for money advanced for water and sewer special assessment installments that were voided by a court judgment.

About 35 residents listened Tuesday night as Turner said the county would be willing to work with the township on a millage proposal and a consent judgment and hopes both sides can avoid a default judgment.

The township hired Umbaugh and Company, a financial consultant, to provide a repayment schedule for the debt, and now that the 2012 equalization numbers are available from the county, new numbers can be determined.

Earlier this year, the board unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that the county board approve a debt millage question for the Aug. 6 ballot. At this point, however, there are no firm numbers. Last November, Sylvan Township voters rejected a 20-year, 4.75 mill tax levy, 475 votes to 328 votes.

Without a millage, how much residents will have to pay in additional taxes on the winter tax bill will be decided either by a consent judgment agreed to by the township and the county and a judge, or through a default judgment with an amount decided by the court.

Turner said that if a millage is approved or there’s a consent agreement, County Treasurer Catherine McClary has agreed to split the back taxes owed to her office over two years. However, if it comes down to a default judgment, Turner said that the treasurer told him that she would use her office's legal counsel to have the total amount paid to her office by township residents in one lump sum.

There was some good news, however, when the original 4.75 millage amount was determined, the payments were based on a township equalized value that was estimated to go down by 5 percent. When the 2012 figures came in, the township’s taxable value was down 2.87 percent, “quite a bit less than the 5 percent predicted for the millage,” Turner said.

If property values go up then the millage rate would go down or be paid over a shorter period of time, he said.

“As much as I hate this, a millage is something that can be controlled; how much and for how long,” said Tom Caplis, a township resident and its zoning officer.

However, even if a millage ballot proposal can be worked out, the county will work on a simultaneous consent judgment, in the event that a millage proposal is not approved by the voters.

“So, in the event that the millage doesn’t pass in August, then the consent judgment goes forward?” asked resident Jan Carr, “As a voter, I see this as a threat.”

Turner said that the township will have to pay one way or the other. “This year, there will be a legal action begun. If the millage isn’t there, there will be a consent judgment or a default judgment.”

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Chelsea area stories, visit our Chelsea page.