Ypsilanti moves forward on proposed street light tax
A new charge could arrive in Ypsilanti property owners' winter tax bill.
A proposed streetlight special assessment district funded by the city's property owners would help the city pay to switch from regular to LED streetlights.
The district could generate $500,000 in new revenue and help the city find significant savings in its electricity bill. City council voted unanimously to direct City Manager Ralph Lange to put together a report on how the plan would work.
A report was previously produced in February but the issue was never taken up by council. Lange said fluctuating DTE rates and further research from staff necessitate a new report.
The previous report stated that the average parcel owner in the city would pay around $50 to $60, though those were based off DTE Energy numbers from February. That report had the fee in place for eight years and it is expected to save the city over $100,000 annually.
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.”
Lange said the city can save on capital if the switch to LED lighting is done this year and offered an aggressive timeline for getting the tax put in place.
"We’re on a very tight schedule," Lange said.
The tentative timeline for developing and implementing the tax is as follows:
- July 16 - The report from Lange will be submitted to council.
- August 6 - A first public presentation and public hearing regarding objections and a resolution approving project.
- August 20 - A public hearing regarding objections and review by the council.
- September 3 - A second public hearing regarding objections and confirmation by city council.
But the city is ensuring residents have ample time to object to the proposed new tax. City council will hold an informational meeting and two public hearings at which residents can file official objections to the district.
"Having two public hearings instead of one gives adequate time to have people come out," City Planner Teresa Gillotti told council.
No council member expressed support or opposition to the bill, but Council Member Pete Murdock asked questions about how opposition could defeat the measure.
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.
Such a district would allow the city to capture funds from Eastern Michigan University, which is the largest property holder and tax exempt.
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 EMU.
There are 1,719 streetlights in the city 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.