Council stalls park and rec levy

Earned income tax levy will go to a second reading

By Melanie Yingst -

TROY — Troy City Council postponed its decision for the parks and recreation levy on Monday.

Council member Robin Oda motioned on Monday to hold a second reading regarding the proposed 10 year, .25 percent earned income tax for $25.7 million in recreation projects, including a second skating rink. Oda submitted a minority report not in favor of the emergency designation for the proposed levy.

Council member Brock Heath was not present at the meeting.

The legislation was marked as emergency to meet the Feb. 1 deadline for the May 2 primary ballot.

If the levy passes, the earned income tax would collect at a total 2 percent rate from its current 1.75 percent.

President Marty Baker asked who would be the treasurer or in charge of the levy campaign if the levy issue moves forward on the ballot.

Council member and Operation Recreation 20/20 campaign chair Bobby Phillips said he doesn’t believe the grassroots campaign organization fulfills the state requirements to designate a treasurer, “because we are loosely associated private money that is supporting this as individuals” and not a political action group. Phillips said he would look into the issue and report back to council.

Baker also asked who would be in charge of approving the final ballot language if approved by council.

Law director Grant Kerber said the final ballot is sent to the clerk for final approval.

During the public comments, many of the organizers of the recreation facilities spoke again in favor of the earned income tax levy issue, including representatives from the Troy Skating Club, Troy Junior Soccer Club, Troy Hockey Parents as well as a board member from Miami Shores and the director of the Troy Senior Citizens Center.

Opponents of the levy included Bernie Vogle, an employee in Troy, who resides in Lostcreek Township. Vogle called the proposed earned income tax “taxation without representation” for those who are employed in the city of Troy, but do not reside in the city. Employees in the city would contribute to the tax, whether they are residents or not.

Vogle said the proposal was a “huge tax increase” for “non mission critical” projects.

“It’s not police, it’s not fire. It’s a sheet of ice, the golf course and some ballfields,” Vogle said. “It’s all great and wonderful for quality of life, but it’s a huge tax increase for those reasons. Number two, it’s a tax, I’m forced to pay even though I live in a (Lostcreek) township but I work in the city of Troy and have no vote — making it taxation without representation.”

Vogle also called the proposal a poorly thought out resolution.

“It seems that not long ago that the ideal funding for this was a property levy to raise about $10 million along with a $4 million private component,” Vogle said.

Vogle noted the city removing the first initiative off the ballot on Nov. 7, then coming back to seek even more public funds to the tune of $25 million to add the second sheet of ice.

The new proposal includes expanded project features of the initial recreation proposal presented this fall with the 2.1-mills property tax levy on the Nov. 8 ballot. Council voted to remove that levy due to an error in the ballot language on Nov. 7. That levy proposed to raise $8 million for projects with a goal of raising $4 million in private donations.

“It doesn’t seem right to come back a month later and suddenly the earned income tax levy is the answer to raise twice as much money as the original levy and oh, by the way, because $25 million there’s another $10 million project for a second sheet of ice,” he said. “I think it’s poorly thought out and it seems like an ad-hoc reaction to a chain of events rather than a thought out plan.”

The 10-year plan would raise approximately $25.7 million over the decade of collection. The 10-year plan includes the projected $10 million second ice rink, which would be Olympic regulation size.

The city of Troy has pledged $1.86 million over the 10 years to help fund the projects. An additional $840,000 in grants and $1.1 million in foundations and private pledges was also included in its projections.

The Operation Recreation plan still includes improvements to the Duke Park North infrastructure, Miami Shores Golf Course, Troy Senior Citizens Center with an addition to the initiative of a proposed $10 million second ice rink adjacent to the newly renovated Hobart Arena.

If passed, the 0.25 percent earned income tax would revert back to the 1.75 percent after the 10-year period of collection is complete or if funds were collected at a higher collection rate allowing the levy to “sunset” early.

The list of projects to be completed with the levy funds if passed include Duke Park construction of nine baseball/softball fields, three youth soccer fields, improve parking, park entrances and consolidate park maintenance, extension of water and sewer utilities to the Troy Junior Football concession stands.

Miami Shores Golf Course’s projects include complete renovation of the clubhouse and installation of an outdoor practice driving range.

Hobart Arena’s project would include the 100-feet-by-200-feet Olympic-sized ice rink with bleacher seating for up to 1,2000.

The William Maier Senior Citizens Center projects would include repairs and renovation of the roof, siding, foundation, doors, windows and concrete; restoration of shuffleboard courts and resurfacing of the parking lot.

Earned income tax levy will go to a second reading

By Melanie Yingst

Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews

Follow Melanie Yingst on Twitter @Troydailynews