Ypsilanti City Council to explore new tax, increasing park usage fees
The special assessment district alone could generate $500,000 in new revenue that will help the city switch from regular to LED streetlights.
Courtesy of Tom Bauld
At tonight’s meeting, the City Council is expected to vote on whether to direct City Manager Ralph Lange to put together a new presentation and plan for a special assessment district.
The purpose of the report, Lange wrote in a memo to City Council, is to “ascertain the cost, extent and necessity of the project as well as establish what proportion of the assessment should be borne by the properties benefited.”
Within city limits, there are 4,951 parcels and close to 40 percent of the city's land total is property tax exempt, some of which is accounted for by Eastern Michigan University.
The city has 1,719 streetlights, and the estimated cost for electricity for fiscal year 2013-14 is $523,051. Within these costs are maintenance, operation and replacement fees. Electricity costs for the city have steadily increased since 2010, when the cost was $501,651.
Such a district would allow the city to capture funds from Eastern Michigan University, which is the largest property holder and tax exempt.
A report was previously produced in February, but the issue was never taken up by council. Lange wrote that changing costs from DTE and further research from staff necessitate a new report.
Previous estimates had the average parcel holder paying between $50 and $60 annually.
The previous timeline had the implementation of the tax set for July 1. The new timeline has a second public hearing and council confirmation scheduled set for Sept. 3.
If property owners representing more than 50 percent of the expected cost of the assessment file objections, the project may not proceed without the affirmative vote of four-fifths of all of the council members.
City Council will also consider a new fee schedule that includes an increase in park usage fees.
Among the proposed increases are special event permit fees that range from $200 to $500, depending on the size of the event. Large festivals that attract under 10,000 attendees would see new capital park improvement fees of $250.
Events would also be required to pay the city’s cost of cleanup plus to 10 to 15 percent if the parks aren’t properly cleaned.
Also proposed are new gazebo rental fees of $100 for the first two hours and $25 for each additional hour. New pavilion rental fees would cost $55 for the first two hours and $25 each additional hour, though non-residents would pay $10 an hour more.
Those costs are rolled into park rental fees for festivals.
Changes to park fees were met with strong opposition from festival organizers last time they went up in 2011.
Council Member Brian Robb noted the outcry over the last changes to park fees and questioned why there wasn't more of an explanation from city staff on the need for increases.
“This is another example of a mysterious proposal from staff," he said. "There are no reasons or explanations given for why things are changing. They just expect us to vote on it."
Most other changes to the city fees are essentially late fee penalties for those who are ticketed for civil infractions like building code violations or littering, for example. In most cases, someone not paying a ticket within 10 days would have an additional $25 tacked onto the fine.
“Changes have been made in mostly all departments, due to either inflation or recalculation of staff time/wages/fringes,” Assistant City Manager Erika Savage wrote to city council in a memo.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.