2018-09-06 / Views

Reader's Forum:

Sewer in quagmire; twp. tax needed
By Joan Brovins

Though I do not reside in or have property in the Leelanau Township Special Assessment District (SAD), I note the $1.56 million deficit in sewer revenues, excluding the Village of Northport’s shortfall. Both government units must pay off $13.2 million in sewer bonds. In 2005, public officials made a gross miscalculation. But now we must pay the due bill.

The MDEQ required sewer funding based on actual users, not future growth. Yet government leaders imagined a rapid growth rate. Increased sewer connections would result in higher revenue. But the growth never happened.

Government officials approved the inflated numbers, anticipating numbers that never materialized, demonstrating why sewer connections must reflect actual users only.

How will Township officials raise revenue to pay the $1.56 million defi- cit? Option No. 1, pay from the general fund; Option No. 2, place the burden on 94 Township property owners in the SAD; Option No. 3, a combination.

One former 2007 trustee publicly opposes township-wide pain-sharing. The County Treasurer joins the chorus incorrectly proclaiming a townshipwide tax requires a sewer connection. Rubbish.

Childless taxpayers fund schools. Healthy taxpayers fund EMS. We all fund the Fire Department. We all pay for parks, beaches, tennis courts, or library materials and services we might not use. Everyone pays taxes though benefitting indirectly.

We all benefit indirectly from the sewer by having a Post Office, Tom’s Market, Deeps Corner Store, restaurants, bank, bakery, the hardware, Village Arts Building, and Northport Inn. The Township Board must marshal the political will to adopt township wide pain-sharing.

If the entire financial burden for the sewer shortfall is placed solely on 94 Township households, each must pay $8,480 more. While morally repugnant, this is also a breach of contract.

In 2007, Leelanau Township and Northport Village signed an Agreement with the county, requiring any deficit be paid by a Township-wide tax. Northport Point is exempt having paid for a 2003 community sewer.

Ignoring this contractual obligation, just one month later the township adopted Ordinance No. 5, unilaterally cancelling its duty to impose a township wide tax. This happened though no single party may change the county contract. Days later, the $13.29 million bond issued, incorporating the township wide tax plan required by the County Agreement.

The township 94 are beneficiaries of the county agreement which is intertwined with the bond, both requiring a township-wide tax. The township 94 may enforce the county agreement to compel all township property owners to pay the $1.56 million deficit, exempting Northport Point.

If Leelanau Township officials disregard the agreement and bond, then listen for the politicians’ howling about attorney fees and legal costs. This previous political fiasco created the costliest sewer per capita in Michigan history. Our current leaders should avoid the next imbroglio.

About the author: Attorneys Joan Brovins and Tom Oehmke reside in Leelanau Township, and have been active in several local issues. They placed an ad in the Enterprise promoting Millage for $ewer and in 2006 actively lobbied Township officials to impose a township-wide “Millage for Village.”

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