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Wyoming eyes shift in millage

Money currently set aside for library would be used to improve parks.

March 3, 2017
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Wyoming is asking residents to consider a ballot measure that would allow for reallocation of some funds from the library maintenance millage to improve several of the city’s parks.

On the ballot of the May 2 special election is a measure that would permit the city to be more flexible with the library maintenance millage to support capital improvements to Ferrand, Gezon, Ideal and Jackson parks, which were damaged by the 2014 tornados and 2013 flood. The proposed measure is a creative solution to redevelop those parks without costing the city’s taxpayers additional funds, said Rebecca Rynbrandt, city director of community services.

“We want to be able to flex a portion of funding to the investment of these (park) properties without having to increase any millage,” Rynbrandt said. “Rather than increasing the overall funding, it’s about providing targeted funding remaining to be dedicated for these specific parks and improvements.”

Three years ago, the library maintenance millage was increased to levy capital for structural improvements to the now 12-year-old Kent District Library Wyoming Branch, 3350 Michael Ave. SW. In that time, Rynbrandt said the city has invested about $800,000 into the building, and the city now is confident no further capital investment will be needed for the library until 2027.

The city’s current millage to support operational costs for the Parks and Recreation Department was passed in 1994, at a capture rate of 1.5 mills. While operational costs have increased over the past 23 years, the city has not increased the rate for the parks and recreation millage, which annually captures $2.9 million for recreation programs and basic maintenance and upkeep.

Rynbrandt said those funds cannot adequately cover major capital improvements, expected to cost between $100,000 and $600,000 for each project and about $23 million overall to meet the requirements laid out in the city’s five-year recreation plan.

“Now that we’ve invested in those needs for the library, it’s time to evaluate whether we want to develop those parks, or does the city council consider rolling (the millage) back again?” Rynbrandt said. “This is an opportunity to begin addressing those specific park needs.”

The amount that would be flexed to spending on the parks and recreation capital improvements would be about $11.84 per taxpayer annually and would not impact the services, collection or maintenance of the library, Rynbrandt said. Additionally, those funds would be reserved solely for capital improvements and not used for the operational costs already covered by the parks and recreation millage.

In return, the four parks targeted for development would receive security and safety improvements, public access improvements to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, turf and natural habitat restoration, infrastructure and storm water control upgrades and flood mitigation.

Additionally, some of those funds would be used for tornado restoration. The city received a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in December to help rebuild Ideal Park.

The city previously has twice flexed millages to cover expenditures not included in the initial measure — once in the early 1990s to expand the sewer and water improvements millage to include street improvements and again to expand use of funds from a sidewalk snow plowing millage to include sidewalk repairs.

“We’re always trying to be creative in accomplishing the goals the citizens have given us without increasing their taxes,” Rynbrandt said. “And I have to think there is creativity across the state as well, because in today’s society and economy, we have to be.”

The first of three voter information sessions on the measure will be held at 10 a.m., March 7, at the Wyoming Senior Center, 2380 DeHoop Ave. SW. Additional sessions will be held at 7 p.m., April 24 at the Gezon Fire Station, 2300 Gezon Parkway SW, and at 10 a.m., April 29 at the library.

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