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Posted: 01/02/13

Romeo fears 37% loss
of tax revenue in 2013

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Personal property tax changes are threatening to take away more than a third of revenue from the Village of Romeo in 2013.
       Village officials are continuing to look for revenue sources and ways to keep services going in the new year as changes in state legislature might reduce personal property tax revenue.
       Approved by the House and Senate in December, the changes would eliminate taxes on Michigan manufacturers and other businesses, and doesn't guarantee a 100 percent replacement of the lost revenue for communities.
       Village representatives believe Romeo will be ranked highest for the biggest proportional loss of revenue due to the changes. Village Clerk Marian McLaughlin said without any sort of reimbursement, the village stands to lose 37 percent of its tax revenue.
       "Romeo will be the hardest hit in Macomb County out of the communities," McLaughlin said. "It will throw us for a loop."
       She said over the last few years the village has been able to make enough substantial cuts in-house to survive without cutting services.
       "If the personal property tax goes through earlier than predicted or without reimbursement, there will have to be just a complete overhaul on looking what we can and cannot do," she said.
       However, a ray of hope shines through in a reimbursement for Emergency Service Assessment (ESA). McLaughlin said this would reimburse 100 percent of funds on fire and police and 80 percent on yet-to-be-determined items.
       Village President Mike Lee said one of the main initiatives will be to find ways to fund a new police station for the Romeo Police Department. Village officials are considering a loan or bonds.
       "My whole goal is to make sure to keep this community safe," Lee said. "I won't take away from the kids and I won't take away from the safety of the community."
       He said the new station may help with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. McLaughlin said trained CERT residents could help off-set the costs of holding events that require the village to pay overtime to officers.
       "Even the Peach Festival, helping with traffic there," she said.
       Meanwhile, the fire hall on Rawles Street will be emptied of its Bruce-Romeo Fire Department personnel so they can move to a new station on East Gates Street.
       McLaughlin said if the department chooses to completely move out it will look at potential uses for the facility.
       Despite the worries caused by the personal property tax changes, finances in the village are receiving good marks. The village recently acquired an "A and stable" bond rating from Standard & Poor's, an improvement from its "BBB" rating.
      
       Sticks and bricks
       Lee said there is a possibility the tax changes won't occur this year, but is still looking for alternative revenue sources for projects.
       For instance, he said the village wants to obtain recreation grants from the county with the intent of repaving 32 Mile Road, which could include a bike path along with curbs and gutters.
       McLaughlin said the project costs around $250,000, and could cost more if the village doesn't act quickly.
       Additional road improvements include working with the county to make the four corners<located at St. Clair and Main Street<more pedestrian friendly with improved signals and crosswalks.
       McLaughlin said local streets will be analyzed since the lifetime expectancy on the asphalt will expire this year.
       Sidewalk improvements, on the other hand, will be in the hands of residents. McLaughlin said the village can reimburse up to 50 percent of the poured concrete costs of residents that repair sidewalks.
       "That ordinance has been on the books for a while, but when we had money we were able to do it (ourselves)," she said. "We just don't have the money now."
       The village is also looking to clean and repaint its water tower in 2013. McLaughlin said a portion of revenue from the water bills meant for capital projects will be used for the project.
       Medilodge of Romeo will continue to develop in 2013. The $10 million project consists of a 66,515 square-foot skilled nursing facility near Railroad, Haddam, Spring and Denby streets. It is expected to resume development in the spring.


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