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Posted on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti to consider special assessment district to cover street lighting costs

By Katrease Stafford

Ypsilanti is exploring the possibility of creating a special assessment district to help cover the cost of its electricity and street lighting. Mayor Paul Schreiber said it potentially could generate about $500,000 to go toward the costs.


Ypsilanti is considering implementing a special assessment district to help cover costs.

Steve Pepple | file photo

City Manager Ralph Lange wrote to city council that the special assessment district would encompass the entire city and levy a fee to pay for electricity costs as well as capital improvements.

According to Lange, the special assessment is being explored because council previously requested staff to proceed with it.

Schreiber said the city potentially could have the assessment cover capital costs and operational costs, although he noted this is just the beginning of the process.

Schreiber said it would be good for the city to consider installing high efficiency LED lights that didn't cost as much to have as the standard ones.

Tuesday, council will consider granting authorization for city staff to move forward with the assessment in order to determine the feasibility and value.

Possible options for the assessment include a flat flee, irrespective of parcel size; fees based upon the average parcel area; or fees based upon the perimeter.

This is not the first time the city has discussed creating a special assessment district. In 2011, city council discussed ways to create more significant budget reductions for the city.

Schreiber said at the time that rough estimates from city staff said the district could generate around $500,000 and cost most residents an additional $85 annually. Schreiber said the talks didn't move forward until now.

Schreiber said while the estimated savings still are roughly the same, he isn't sure if the estimated cost for residents will remain the same or change.

Lange has proposed a tentative timeline for the assessment to go into effect:

  • Feb.19 - Report by city manager: Presentation of assessment options
  • March 5 - Preliminary resolution of necessity and public hearing
  • March 19 - City council approval, directing the city assessor to prepare the roll
  • Last week of March 2013 - Notices will be mailed to property owners and a second public hearing will be held
  • April 23 - Either an approval, rejection or changes will be made to the proposal
  • July 1 - The special assessment district goes into effect

The next step according to a memo sent out by City Attorney John Barr will be for Lange to provide cost projections, the necessity of the project, what proportion should be paid by residents and what proportion should be paid by the city.

In the public hearing, Barr said residents have the right to file objections. 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.

Schreiber said he isn't sure if residents will be in favor or against the special assessment. Lighting and electricity is paid for out of the general fund, which is where most of the city's expenses and revenues are located.

"I think voters tend to vote in favor of things they can benefit from," he said. "I think it's probably going to be some objection by people, but how do you make up the $500,000? It's really about how do we get the whole general fund to work?

"The general fund is the one that we’re trying to make solvent. This will be a way to provide a revenue source that its tied to a direct benefit that residents get."

Schreiber said he supports the idea of creating a special assessment district.

"If I don't support it, then what is my solution?" Schreiber said. "I supported the income tax twice and that went down in defeat. Voters told us told us they don't want an income tax or Water Street debt millage... At some point, we still need more revenue and this is the only way we can get revenue... The state government is squeezing us and we really don't have anywhere to go."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

Many other communities in Michigan used city funds to redevelop blighted areas, with success. Ypsilanti was a victim of bad timing. Water St. project is not what is bringing funds to a point at which further funding sources are needed, although it is a component. Michigan residents chose to elect an anti-infrastructure politician that has gutted not only promised funds originally dedicated to local communities, but also gutting future return funds. While also raising taxes on the 'normal folk' and reducing taxes on the elite. Anti-tax anti-common-use project folks should move to Mexico for 6 months. In Mexico, you darn be darn sure will not pay any taxes. You also will have only the drinkable water you can afford to purify for yourself, the road you can afford to pave on your own, the trash service and security you can afford to hire for just your own home, and the food quality you can both grow and harvest for yourself. And Mr Pierce- your comment explains the smile I saw on your face as you cruised the town riding upon your Segway. That was what, a $5k toy when you bought it? Enjoy the reach-around.

Steve Pierce

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 2:23 a.m.

The only reason to propose a special assessment district is to raise property taxes of the most heavily taxed citizens in the county, knowing full well it only takes 4 votes on council and knowing full well they could never get 2,000 voters to approve the same special assessment tax increase if they put it to a vote of the people. This is just another city hall reach around.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

I understand the need to find more tax revenue. But as an Ypsi resident who already pays ridiculous amounts of taxes ($3700/yr), I ask where's the limit? If you're going to start implementing a tax for this and a tax for that, can we at least adopt some sort of overall cap on taxes per household/residence?


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

There already is a cap on the millage rate. Ypsilanti is at that cap. Since they can't raise taxes, they have to call it an "assessment" to make it legal. Call it what they want, it's still a tax.

Ben Petiprin

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Great quote at the end. Schreiber basically tips his hand that this is just a way to weasel in a new tax and circumvent the will of the voters. "I supported the income tax twice and that went down in defeat. Voters told us told us they don't want an income tax or Water Street debt millage... At some point, we still need more revenue and this is the only way we can get revenue..." So, respect the wishes of the people instead of trying to negate it with fine print mind tricks. Why are they siphoning more and more money while public services get worse and worse? That is why people leave a place.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

In essence, they are making up problems, or even just blowing out of proportion existing problems, in an attempt to bring in more money. The city is already at it's max tax rate and it still cannot make the money work. As they continue to try and push the costs for their mismanagement, all the way back to the Water St. purchase, onto the people, they are just going to push more people out of the city.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 7:34 p.m.

One of the reasons we decided not to buy a house in Ypsilanti was the high taxes and now they want to tack on even more that is ridiculous.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 3 p.m.

Good luck with this. Its taxes a few and not the many who use the lights and it flies in the face of the voters demands. The message from the income tax campaigns was CUT - not raise taxes. btw, Gary Hann isn't exactly correct - There isn't a single cause to the structural deficit in the city's budget and water street isn't "the" problem. Its part of a larger problem that many cities across the state are having. If the State had kept its revenue-sharing promise, we'd have no problem at all.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

How about doing Induction lighting together with DTE -- not only would you get a major decrease in consumption, but could you also get a decrease in kWh cost from DTE? You likely get a much bigger bang for the buck from the reduced consumption opportunity presented by Induction blighting, but if you can get DTE to lower the price as well -- GO FOR IT!

Katrease Stafford

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Also on the agenda for tonight's meeting is a proposed agreement with DTE for street light conversions. Stan Kirton, Director of Public Services, met with representatives from DTE about two programs that the city could possibly participate in. If the city were to enroll in these two programs, its energy costs will decrease. I'll be sure to share more information about it.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

If you look at the equation for Induction lighting vs what they currently use (likely High Pressure Sodium -- HPS -- which is what so many cities use), the cost savings of going to Induction lighting should be enough to offset the cost of the investment and make any special assessment unnecessary. Will the city take a look at Induction lighting -- I hope so! They have nothing to lose and everything to gain, including the goodwill of taxpayers already overburdened in a city that deserves more.

C Steve Kime

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Hey here's an idea, cut everyone's pay in government to cover the additional cost of providing basic services. The golden goose of taxpayer money is drying up suckers!


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

Tax, tax , and then tax some more! Are you kidding me ? Hey TAX some more! Where do you get these lame brain ideas? You have driven every business out of town! The township loves the CITY! Duh


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Why aren't they looking at Magnetic Induction Lighting, a great alternative to the high costs of LEDs? It is a proven technology with a 100,000 hour lifetime (11+ years at 24 hour a day operation, which is not the case for street lamps), it doesn't have the harsh glare of LED lighting, it has much better visual acuity allowing one to see better all around (safety/security?), and it is cheaper than LED up front. The city of San Diego, CA has gone to Induction lighting for that very reason. They did a downtown study that showed very clearly the cost advantages of Induction lighting vs LED and the various other technologies. Why haven't you heard that much about induction lighting even though it has been around for over 100 years? New processor technology has now made it very cost effective. And disposal -- throw it away in your normal trash. The city of Ypsilanti is not doing its taxpayers any favors if it does not at least look into the alternative of induction lighting. By the way, maintenance favors Induction lighting as well. Just ask San Diego! And it has UL certification. So why not investigate?


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

Agree with Gary Hann. What, exactly, do taxes pay for if not for basic services like street lighting and garbage removal??? Perhaps Ypsilanti city council should review the annual budget and re-prioritize expenditures to cover necessities first rather than last or not at all.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

The issue with LED lights is usually the up front costs which can be very hefty. The change can be very costly, and likely cannot be fit into a normal budget with taxes as they are. There are other solutions which the taxpayers ought to fight for, especially Induction lighting. But the LED industry has done a much better job of selling its technology. It is, however, not the best or most cost effective solution. It is not the best use of taxpayer money. San Diego went to Induction lighting big time. Cost, safety, security -- they all point to Induction lighting. And they can be retrofit into specialized decorative lighting fixtures, if that is an issue. Taxpayers -- here is your solution!


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

The technology for LED lighting has improved greatly over the past decade. Although it is over-hyped in a lot of aspects, streetlight fixtures would be a good place to put them


Wed, Feb 6, 2013 : 3:05 a.m.

LED tech is much improved over the last decade, I would not have wanted the city to be a first-adopter. At this time, it makes sense. JJ, to which what better and less expensive solution do you refer?


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

It is also a very expensive fix. there are much better and less expensive solutions.