By Megan Kelley
Lake Orion’s Downtown Development Authority had a joint special meeting with the Lake Orion Village Council last week to discuss the DDA’s proposed 2022-23 budget.
According to budget documents by DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone the Lake Orion’s DDA is expected to see a total estimated revenue of $1,098,952 during the 2022-23 fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.
The budget contains several priority projects including dumpster/grease enclosures ($60,000), gazebo electrical improvements ($5,000), downtown lighting ($75,000) and electric vehicle charging stations ($15,000).
Additionally, the DDA is looking at a much larger priority project of building a parking deck. The DDA currently has $250,000 reserved in their fund balance in preparation for the project, which is estimated to cost $6 million.
One of the key items the council wanted to discuss was the logistics of the proposed parking deck.
According to DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone, the parking deck would likely be a one-story deck over the Children’s Park parking lot and that planning for the deck was expected to take this entire fiscal year. This means that even an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the project would be a minimum of a year away.
Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett, who sits on the DDA Board, spoke in favor of bonding for the project, saying that the process takes about six months. Barnett added that the DDA is going to have to “over communicate” to downtown businesses with information as plans continue for the project.
Lake Orion Village Council President Pro-Tem Jerry Narsh also said that he would like to have the possibility of a public/private parking deck explored further.
Because of these projects, mainly the parking deck, the budget shows several changes in event promotions, including several decreases in events such as the Halloween Extravaganza and Social District nights, as well as increases in events, like the Gazebo Concert Series and Oktoberfest.
In some cases, event promotion was removed entirely. Overall, event promotion saw a budget increase of $14,130.
The Lake Orion DDA is set to host 14 events this year and provide promotional support to four additional events held in the downtown by other organizations.
Part of the budget also shows the DDA’s event planning strategy as a 60/40 goal, with 60 percent of funds expected to be raised through sponsorships while the DDA would pay for the other 40 percent.
Village Admin., Police, DPW Fees
Another important take away from the budget was the proposed increase in administrative services provided by the village to the DDA.
Based on the budget documents provided, contracted services for the DPW maintenance is expected to increase $3,800 to a total of $30,000.
DPW event support will increase $5,000 for a total of $10,000, and DPW snow removal is expected to increase $3,000 to a total of $15,000.
Administrative services will likely increase $2,000 for a total of $70,000 annually.
Police parking and code enforcement increases $1,000 to a total of $21,000, police crowed control is up $10,000 for a total of $20,000.
The increases round out to a total amount paid for these services of $226,000 for the 2022-23 fiscal year: $101,000 for police, $55,000 for DPW and $70,000 for administrative services.
Last year, the Lake Orion DDA spent 23 percent of their total revenue on these contract services, directly in line with the Rochester DDA.
This year, 25 percent of the DDA’s total revenue is expected to be spent on these services, the most in the area and two percent more than Rochester.
For comparison, the Oxford DDA is expected to spend just 10 percent of their total revenue on contracted services.
Additionally, DDA wages, not including social security, medical insurance or pension, total to $119,271.
Village Manager Joe Young gave a presentation to the DDA board on March 1 about the cost of village services provided to the DDA, but said the village was not asking for more money at that time.
Tax Capture Discussion
The budget presentation and discussion shifted to one with a more tense undertone when village Councilmember Michael Lamb asked LaLone if the DDA had considered losing 60 percent of its tax capture.
Lamb has been vocal about his issues with the current DDA tax capture district and in previous meetings has called to either dissolve the DDA or redraw the DDA boundaries to exclude residential areas. (See the March 27 issue of The Lake Orion Review).
According to Barnett, a change in the DDA boundary would put the entire DDA district in jeopardy as far as tax capture ability.
Lamb however, disagrees, saying that reducing the district would not allow taxing authorities to opt out of the DDA’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) capture; only in the case of increasing the size of the district would they be able to opt out.
DDA Chairperson Debbie Burgess questioned whether changing the DDA boundaries was a village council topic of conversation or simply one that Lamb himself stands alone in.
Village council President Ken Van Portfliet said that though the conversation has been discussed at the council level, no action has been taken.
“This is not something that’s been requested, sanctioned, up for debate among the council. It’s not even a council agenda item,” Van Portfliet said.
With that information in mind, Burgess took issue with what she called “throwing grenades in the direction of the DDA” for the second week in a row, asking what exactly Lamb’s goal was.
Lamb responded stating that his goal is to “bring the tax capture district of the Lake Orion Downtown Development authority in line with state law.”
Barnett took issue with that statement, saying that the DDA is in line with state law and that spreading false information that states otherwise is dangerous.
“To be crystal clear; you cannot say that the DDA is not lined with state law. That is a completely baseless statement,” said Barnett. “We were unanimously recommended for reapproval, it was vetted by all the taxing authorities, vetted by the state of Michigan. We’ve been completely within the guidelines of state law.”
Barnett also said that should Lamb, or anyone else on the council, have information that says otherwise that person should either bring the information forward or resign.
“Saying those statements is disingenuous and not founded in fact. We would not be allowed to capture the taxes from the township if we were not in line with state law,” Barnett said. “Those are baseless, dangerous statements that someone who picks up the newspaper and sees those talking points, or Facebook posts, are going to think we’re doing something wrong. If you have evidence, real evidence, you need to present it at the next meeting or tonight. Or stop saying those false statements. It’s dangerous and it will divide this village.”
Van Portfliet spoke in agreement that the DDA is in line with state law telling Lamb that those claims otherwise “got to stop.”
Barnett also accused Lamb of allegedly meeting with developers, speaking negatively about the DDA and trying to convince potential area investors to lobby against the DDA.
Lamb responded to the accusation saying that he is allowed to speak with anyone he wants and that he believes what is more divisive is taking money from residential areas, money Lamb claims should go to the village government for services for residents.
“I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I’m not trying to push you around. I’m trying simply to get more money for the Village of Lake Orion for the sewers and the water projects,” Lamb said. “There are huge new residential developments that are coming into our community that are in the large DDA capture area. I would like the taxes for these 100-, 200-unit apartment complexes to go to developing our sewers and used for our water, and I would like those dollars to go to the village.”
Lamb reiterated that he fully supports the DDA but is looking for the village to be able to capture the taxes it needs for all of its infrastructure needs.
During their special meeting on March 9, Young informed the DDA board that the village currently has roughly $20 million in necessary infrastructure improvements including water main, sewer and road repairs.
The village council is expected to vote on the DDA’s proposed budget at a future meeting this month.