Voters OK new Royal Oak millages for parks, senior services

Voters OK new Royal Oak millages for parks, senior services

A millage to fund parks and a second millage for senior services gained voter approval with comfortable margins in Royal Oak.

Out of more than 31,730 votes for the 0.7-mill parks proposal, 71 percent of voters approved the measure Tuesday, according to unofficial county tallies. The millage also includes about $133,000 in annual funding for the city’s animal shelter.

The parks tax is expected to generate about $2 million a year in funding.

Roughly 61 percent of 31,224 voters in the city also OK’d a new  0.2 mill-tax proposal for senior services.

The millage will raise about $621,000 a year for senior city services, which include activities, a senior center, transportation, and community outreach.

The total budget for those programs and the Mahany/Meininger Senior Community Center operations is about $1 million annually.

“I’m a big parks guy and I like having economic services” for seniors, said resident Max Bien, who voted for the two millages.

Officials at City Hall were happy with the turnout and support for the two new millages, said City Manager Paul Brake.

“We are doing our homework already with a (new) parks and recreation master plan and an ageing-in-place plan,” he said.

The city’s Senior Services Aging in Place Task Force has worked for three years and already has a draft plan on goals to accommodate senior citizens in Royal Oak.

There are 51 parks in Royal Oak, far more than any other city in the region.

“For a community that has as many parks as we do it is surprising there hasn’t been a dedicated funding source for parks,” Brake said.

Parks and recreation funding in Royal Oak has faced challenges keeping up with replacing aged-out playgrounds, tennis courts and other amenities. Some parks have problems with flooding that need to be addressed.

“I think Royal Oak and the parks will look much different in five to 10 years from now,” Brake said.

Having a millage to support parks will allow the city to get more matching grant funding for improvements from the state Department of Natural Resources.

“To participate in that grant program for local parks with the DNR, you have to have matching grants,” Brake said. “Previously, we didn’t have that funding source.”

The parks millage is expected to fund about $1.4 million for parks and forestry workers and maintenance. About $500,000 each year will pay for park upgrades.

Longtime resident Jack Dawson voted for the senior service and parks millages Tuesday.

“The parks we have in Royal Oak are very good” amenities, Dawson said, “and there’s a lot of seniors worse off than I am who can use services.”

Part of the money from the parks and senior service millages is to shore up funding sources for the two programs funded from the city’s general fund budget, Brake said.

“Not every dollar (from the millages) will be spent above and beyond” what has been spent, he said. “The way (economic) projections are going we will have to become a leaner organization in the coming years.
The millages ensure that parks and senior services programs won’t face any reductions in funding, Brake said.



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