‘Critical Concerns’ about Village of Lake Orion

This letter to the editor addresses two critical current concerns.  #1.  The Council’s inappropriate choice of the 4 Year Plan instead of a 1 Year Plan to Update the villages water system, and #2. The seemingly non-considered result of advancing new projects that will spend the local populace into financial insolvency and unbearable future debt by trying to accomplish too many things in a too short a time frame.

Village Management needs to realize that Lake Orion is a quaint little village with a small population with limited funding – in other words it isn’t Birmingham or Franklin Village in terms of income.  On February 9th and 21st there are open Village Council meetings at 7 PM to discuss their goals and objectives for 2017/18 as well as the Capital Improvement Plan and Program.  Plan to attend to become involved in your community and the spending of your tax dollars.

 

First – the Council approved a 4 Year Water System Replacement Plan puts the lives of the village family residents and their investment property at risk for 3 additional unnecessary years at the same cost as the 4 year plan.  Factually the 1 Year Plan avoids 3 additional years of material and labor cost of living increases per year so the 1 Year actually saves citizen expense.

 

The increased life and property risk during the additional 3 years is due to the necessary use of the temporary water pool firefighting system instead of a functioning fire hydrant now painted black by the fire department as unusable to fight a home fire.  The temporary water pool takes 10 to 12 additional minutes and 6 firefighters to assemble the 12′ x 12′ x 3′ deep pool once arriving at the scene of the home fire in 6 to 10 minutes.  Were there a new functioning fire hydrant that can push up to 1500 gallons per minute at the home fire means that during in the same lost 10 to 12 minutes assembling the water pool – up to 18,000 gallons of water would flow from the new fire hydrant?

 

Those lost 10 to 12 minutes could mean an unnecessary child’s or elderly person’s injury or death as well as much more home damage because a fire doubles in size every 20 seconds.

 

These facts were verified with the fire chief and documented data provided by the villages hired engineer consultants.  All this data was presented by me to the council prior to the meeting and again at the council meeting wherein they still decided that the 4 Year Plan was their unanimous choice ignoring the clear risk to lives and property for 3 additional years as explained to them.

 

Why was my verified data and the risks ignored?  I can only speculate that the council may have succumbed to pressure from the hired engineering consultants to spread out their work over 4 years rather than hire more companies to simultaneous do the work in 1 year, or they were unwilling to take the heat from some residents who didn’t understand that there was substantial personal risk for 3 additional years at the same end cost in the 4 Year Plan.  Also the village manager felt doing all four projects simultaneous would be disruptive to the residents but as I pointed out they are in totally separate areas with wide geographic separation so that excuse was irrational.

 

I do know that council members better pray that lives are not lost during the additional 3 years they caused by their vote.

 

Secondly – I was very concerned when I recently read the council presidents interview where he lauded the exciting short term change/improvement plans for the village without any expressed concern for how and who would pay for them.  To begin I would like to put one of Ken’s comments to rest about moving Fire Station #1.  Both the Townships Supervisor Chris Barnett and Fire Chief  Bob Smith have assured us that Fire Station #1 will remain in the Village and will not be moved at a cost of over $2 million plus.  Instead Station #1 will be improved on the adequate land it currently resides by selling the 3 lot Atwater Property.  That property sale will raise almost the money needed to modify Fire Station #1 as it should be to accommodate our female firefighters as the other 3 stations already have.  Chris told me the remaining cost can be handled within their current budget.

 

My concern and speculation is that the Village Downtown Development Authority is advancing that thought.  The DDA have always wanted that Fire Station #1 to be moved so they could have that land to put business’s on.  That way they could get the yearly business taxation profits for their own coffers.  Unfortunately the DDA would not like pay for the $2 million plus cost to move Fire Station #1.  They would however like the village and township residents to pay the $2 million plus.  That way the DDA gets what they want at no cost to them.  Shame on the DDA for trying to back into that windfall at taxpayer expense.

 

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Next I am concerned about village resident’s financial ability to pay more in taxes.  I know my family is already stretched now.

 

Each year every responsible citizen in every financial spectrum wrestles with their family’s financial future, keeping their job and their own eventual retirement.  Just as every need and want is being analyzed by responsible families to justify considered expenditures every intelligent business and government entity is or should be doing the same.  Failure by each to properly plan, during these times, to live and operate within their own means/budget and put away money for unexpected expenses means a failure of their family, a business or a governmental unit.

 

In these financially troubled times most people’s days are filled with overall financial anxiety and job insecurity – they are running in place trying to get to a place of calm solid footing where they can relax for a while.  However people do have time to be frustrated with being taken advantage of – real or perceived as follows:

 

To give some reality to each of our current financial situations, I believe most of us are not aware that nearly 50% of American families have less than $400.00 in savings to cover unexpected emergency expenses.  And surprisingly according to the same 2014 Federal Reserve Survey even 25% of those families making $100,000 or more per year would elect to pay the $400.00 off over time at credit card high interest rates.  No one can argue that 2016/17’s financial circumstance isn’t worse than 2014 {i.e. families credit card debt is higher than the 2007/08 crash, The U.S. Gross Domestic Product sales is hovering at 1% or less, U.S. debt climbing dangerously higher, U.S. Central Bankers having no reasonable idea how to increase consumer spending to drive up the GDP except for considering negative interest rates which will further sink consumer spending and the GDP, etc.}.

 

To grasp the quantity of family households in the Lake Orion Village in trouble financially having less than $400.00 in savings please follow along.  The simple math using the 50% of families uncovered by the 2014 Federal Reserve Survey means up to 730 of the over 1,460 families in the Village of Lake Orion are in trouble financially.

Then understand that over 25% of families {365 Lake Orion families} with yearly income over $100,000 pay unexpected $400.00 emergency costs by credit card and the Orion family’s facing financial problems becomes even clearer. Then add to that another 263 Village families on fixed income { retirees, veterans and the handicapped } {see the Village SEMCOG 2010 data reasonably expanded to 2016 }.  Nearly 18% – over 57 million {according to AARP} of the estimated 323 million U.S. population fall into the fixed income retiree & veteran bracket.  And you should know SS checks didn’t go up for 2016 and only up.3% {3/10th of a percent} increase for 2017 but the fixed income folks monthly bills went up substantially because the CPI does not include food, gas or oil.  Many retirees make monthly and weekly decisions as to which bill to pay – which lifesaving or medicinal expensive drug that allows them to be mobile/function can they do without this month.  Interesting that there are 481 village residents at 65 years or older according to SEMCOG 2010 census data.  That’s 33% of all 1460 residents.

 

So statistically potentially 1,095 of the 1,460 Orion Township Families are suffering financially and most of the 1,460 are also concerned with their job security and their future ability to live through their retirement years.

 

Unexpected additional taxation will not be tolerated by those citizens fighting to survive when it is evident that their tax money is not being properly spent or without understandable explanation and published explained rational.  School systems and local governments will soon realize that citizen revolt is ever more likely when citizens realize that each taxation leavening entity isn’t concerned with their constituent’s financial future by their unjustified spending actions or lack of published proper cost controls.  Plus the soon and overdue expected forecasted downturn in the national and world economy will exacerbate citizen unrest and aggressive reactions to real or perceived unfairness in taxation current or proposed.

 

To be fair The Orion School District has recently analyzed income and expenses and severely cut costs by negotiating a one year teacher salary abeyance, other cost reduction efforts and closing down one school.  They saw that school age children entering the school system were on a downward trend for the last five years or more and made the decisions necessary to continue their purpose of quality education by contraction of their expenses long term.

 

This school recognition and expense contraction reaction is clearly an example of what needs to happen within the Village of Lake Orion and every municipality.  The village council and administration needs to understand that the village population is a pretty static number with very little opportunity to grow.   The reason is the geographic footprint of the village can’t expand to encompass more land and more homes.  So the village council and administration needs to look beyond next year and realize that the residents don’t represent a bottomless money pit.  Residents reasonably expect a planned published intent to control expenses that indicates an understanding of fiscal responsibility to the people they serve.  No organization can say that they can’t reduce expenses to help reduce future necessary costs.

 

So part of this Letter To The Editor is that the Village Council and Administration is a request and challenge by myself and other concerned residents is that the village determine and publish village plans to reduce costs this year in several areas within their control.  Once again, no organization can reasonably say that they can’t reduce the expenses of their operation to help reduce future necessary operating costs.

 

So to follow the village resident cost trail let’s examine the recent and planned cost increases to village tax payers. 1st were the increases to the water costs during 2016.  I am an average water user at 34 units {3400 GALLONS} per quarter now paying $327.00 a quarter and $1308.00 a year.  My water bill is soon to go up $31.00 higher per quarter in January 2017, $30.00 more in 2018, $25.00 more in 2019 and $22.00 more in 2020 so my water bill for 2020 will be around $527.00 per quarter including the sewer and garbage costs and $2107.00 per year including the sewer and garbage costs.  So the total increase in 2020 will be about $800.00 or more per year.  Of course it will be higher because the sewer and garbage costs will no doubt go up each year as well.  So the water bill costs will soon be $40.00 per week and much higher than in 2016.

 

Then my and your school taxes went up another $200.00 per year in 2017 to a total of $2049 a year.  So the cost of yearly school taxation will be $40.00 per week for a home of $100,000 taxable value.

 

So the soon cost per week to live in the Village of Lake Orion will be $40.00 per week for water and sewer and $40.00 per week for school taxation plus $20.00 per week for village taxation for a total of $100.00 per week to live in the village.  That’s $5200.00 per year just for the village and school costs not including the Township taxation as follows .

 

I am an average township home owner with a taxable value home of nearly $100,000 which means my township taxation minus the school taxation is $28.00 per week and $1433 per year.

 

So my total [I’m average} average cost of home ownership in the village is $128.00 per week and $6,633 per year.  For proper expense realization that the $128.00 per week and $6,633 cost per year as a direct deduction to each residents take home pay.

 

On top of that there is village discussion of another $8 million for sidewalks, trails and various other considered improvements in the village.  That would mean another 4 Mills of taxation or $400.00 more per year pushing Village Taxation up to $1,411.00 per year for an average of $27.00 per week for a home of $100,000 taxable value.

 

Then in 2016 the Lansing politicians decided to give school districts the right to impose an additional 4 mills for improving the Technical School Systems which would equate to another taxation of $400.00 more taking School Taxation up to $2449.00 a year for a home of $100,000 taxable value average year but only if the Orion School District chooses to impose it.  To do so by the Orion School District would be a real slap in the face for Orion residents who recently dug deep and approved the 2 Mill Sinking Taxation Fund to help save the School District.

 

So to bottom line this concern –  it is evident that politicians here and in Washington have no sense of the real normal average citizen’s financial world and us normal citizens who are forced to try to live in their perception of the bottom less money pits we so clearly represent to them.

 

In closing we village residents look forward soon to our requested Village planned and published cost reductions for 2017.  It’s just good business.

 

Sincerely,

Fred and Donna Fleming

Concerned 44 Year Residents of the Lake Orion Village

 

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