Chamber Hosts Headlee Forum

Chamber Hosts Headlee Forum

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 4/12/2011)


The Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce held a forum for business owners and residents to discuss Proposal A. ( Representatives from local and County government were there, as well as a representative from each of the citizens campaigns.  Dennis Whittie spoke on behalf of Yes to Ferndale’s Future.  Sean House represented FACT (Ferndale Against Council’s Tax).


Dave Coulter spoke as Mayor of the City.  “Make no mistake on this …the current financial position we are in is not the result of council spending,” he said.  “The main reason we are in the position we are in is because property values are plummeting.  And they are plummeting all over the place.”


Coulter gave the example of his personal property tax.  “Over the past two years my property taxes have gone down over $1,000.  That sounds great for me, but what does it mean for the city and the community,” he said.  “This is a community that has wanted, demanded and paid for a high level of taxes.  In fact if this Headlee does not pass we will have to cut dramatically. …There is no way to make up a 2.3 million budget gap without laying off police and fire.

‘The city doesn’t take apposition on it, but we [on council] all are voting for it.  ….but if the city decides we can’t afford it any more we will begin making the cuts,” he said.  “It is your city and your decision to make.”


John McCarthy of the Oakland County Assessor’s Office gave information about tax rates throughout the County, focusing on commercial properties for the benefit of the business owners present.  One example was Mileu, located at 756 Livernois had a 2009 tax bill of $7,012.81.  The value of the property went from $105,440 to $91,250 in 2011.  The 2011 tax bill is only $6,027.83 due to the decline in value.  With a 3 Mill increase, their taxes would be $6,301.58 and with 5.5 Mil increase it would be $6,529.70.


While every case is different, there are many examples where property owners will be paying less property taxes than two years ago because of how much taxable values have declined.  Other examples given were 940 Livernois, 22930 Woodward, and 23000 Woodward.  Tax information for every property can be looked up on the City of Ferndale website –


Sean House from FACT – Ferndale Against Councils Tax explained the group’s reasons for opposing Proposal A.   “As a group we felt City Council did not take enough care to watch our money,” he said. “How many police and fire could have been saved if we didn’t buy new desks, computers, and cubicles?”  (

He said that on top of Proposal A, residents could expect to see other increases, particularly if bond debt rates raise or if there is a Fire Authority established.  ( He noted that Ferndale has one of the highest tax rates in Oakland County.


He said that the budget numbers are not accurate, because revenue sharing is being debated at the state level we can’t know how much the City will receive, and also said that union arbitrations could bring the City savings.


“We have investigated and found some probable solutions,” House said, adding that the $2.3 million deficit could be closed without laying off police and fire.  He said that he and other members of FACT have a budget plan, but that they won’t be revealing their ideas until closer to the election.


Dennie Whittie, co-chair of the Yes for Ferndale’s Future spoke in favor of Proposal A.  Whittie sat on the volunteer panel that combed through the budget looking for possible solutions.  The Committee ultimately recommended the override.  ( “There was over 1,000 volunteer hours put in.  It wasn’t just a rubber stamp thing.  Those who attended the meetings would know that,” Whittie said.  Later in the presentation he added “We didn’t see a lot of [non-member, public] participation in the meetings, but there were people in the audience who came saying they won’t vote for a tax, but when they looked at the numbers they agreed.”

He was critical of FACT for their choice of names.  “This is not ‘council’s tax,’” Whittie said.  “This was recommended by a citizens committee and is being voted on by the residents.”


Whittie is a police officer in River Rouge.  “I see what happens when things get cut. I’ve had to answer 911 phone calls and tell people there was no one who could come,” he said.


Councilpersons Melanie Piana and Scott Galloway were in the audience for the forum, and took the opportunity to clarify their views.  “The average tax bill is lower than many of our neighbors in Oakland county because we have a lower taxable value per home,” Piana said.  She also explained that currently 14.5 Mills of your taxes go to support City government, while the rest are for dedicated funds like the Library and the Bond Debt, which were voted on by the public in the past.


“One of the reasons this place is such a good place to live is because the citizens of Ferndale invest in themselves,” Galloway said. “We get a lot for that money.  Its money well spent that creates a stable environment where we can feel safe and feel proud.  The world is changing.  Government does not move as fast as a household can.  What we’re asking the people to do is give us a little time to adjust to that.  We’re not asking for it to be permanent, it will expire in 5 years.  Every city to adjust and be great needs time.  We need to develop new ways to deliver services, but this takes time.”


“No politician wants to get in office and ask to raise taxes, we wouldn’t put this on the ballot if we didn’t’ consider alternatives,” added Coulter.


The Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce hosts forums that put timely subjects in perspective for business owners in the community.  “We have members on both sides of this issue,” said Chamber Executive Director Jennifer Roosenberg.  To find our more about the Chamber go to

Citizens for Fair Ferndale will be holding a public forum on Proposal A, on Saturday, April 23, 2011 from 2-3:30pm at the Ferndale Public Library.  A representative from FACT and Yes to Ferndale’s Future will be on hand to answer questions about the issue.  For more information, check out CFF’s website at



Time to Talk about the Headlee –

Groups Organize Around Headlee Issue


Financial Committee Makes Final Recommendations for Headlee Override

Committee Recommends Tax Override
Financial Committee Continues
Financial Planning Committee tries to tackle budget problems
If you would like to share your opinion on the budget issue, or any other Ferndale topic, please write to FERNDALE VIEWS can be read at Suggested length is 100-1,000 words.


Documents used by the Financial Committee can be found on the City’s website at:

The site also has a video archive of Council meetings that are set up so that residents can easily navigate to the part of the meeting they would like to watch simply by clicking a topic on the agenda screen.

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