Lake Orion to propose its own millage to voters in August
By Susan Carroll
Review Writer, and
Orion Township plans to put a 1-mill parks and recreation millage proposal on the Aug. 7 primary ballot for voters’ approval, but the Lake Orion Village Council doesn’t want any part of it.
During the regular meeting of the village council on Monday, the village’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee recommended that the council request that Orion Township exclude the village from the township’s proposed millage.
The committee also recommended that the council authorize the village clerk to file a ballot proposal with Oakland County to allow a parks and recreation millage of up to 0.5834 mills in the primary election, whether or not the township excludes the village from their millage proposal.
The financial impact of a 0.5834 millage rate would provide an estimated $76,000 in taxes dedicated annually toward village parks.
President Ken VanPortfliet said, “This is contingent to them (Orion Township) not allowing us to be on their millage. We are having a meeting with the township to go over this more indepth, making sure that our requests and our statement of what we would like to see for the village.”
The village combined the two motions and voted unanimously to support the recommendations.
“There is no tax rate increase since the fire millage is expiring. It should be fairly easy to re-allocate costs,” said VanPortfliet.
The fire millage is 0.5834 mills and expires Dec. 31, 2018.
There is a risk that the village residents would pay double taxes if the township does not exclude the village from the millage. At issue is that village residents are also township residents and are subject to township taxes.
The township also does not charge to use its parks, but the village charges a higher rate for township residents to use Green’s Park.
Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said he was unsure if the township could exclude the village from the township’s proposed millage and would have to look into it.
In February, the township board voted unanimously to form a parks and recreation millage ad-hoc committee to research the issue and present the board with a recommendation.
“The township has placed a high priority on parks and open space because we are the township ‘Where living is a vacation,’” said Barnett. “The problem is we don’t have unlimited resources. Things need to be fixed. Things need to be maintained.”
The township budgeted $1.98 million of this year’s $7 million budget for parks and recreation and is projecting more than $2 million in costs for 2019.
“We really are at a decision-making point as a board to either drastically cut expenses or look to some sort of parks millage,” Barnett said.
In July, the township conducted a community survey asking residents’ input on several areas, including parks and recreation. Survey results included:
40 percent of residents moved to Orion Twp. because of the parks, lakes and open spaces.
76 percent of residents do at least half of their recreation in Orion.
38 percent would like more recreation added.
37 percent use the parks on a weekly basis.
58 percent said they would support a parks millage with the fire millage expiring and no additional increase in taxes.
The township’s parks are Camp Agawam, with 140 acres; Friendship Park, 134.97 acres; Civic Center Park, 78.86 acres; and Jesse Decker Park, 24.65 acres. The township also maintains the Orion Center, Wildwood Amphitheater and owns 76 acres of undeveloped land off Joslyn Road, north of township hall, that is designated for future recreation or open space use.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Whatley said the department would use a millage to operate the parks, continue services, maintain the open green spaces and continue or expand programs.
“We are solely funded from the general fund. There’s a need in our community for recreation and green space. We just need to make sure that we have the funding necessary. I think a millage would be good all around,” Whatley said.