Extra Taxes Set For Vote; Zoo Defeated
Ann Arbor voters will advise the City Council whether taxes should be raised, if necessary, to acquire additional park land.
But there will be no vote on a city zoo.
The City Council last night voted to place on the Nov. 6 ballot an advisory vote on whether taxes should be raised a quarter mill on equalized value (which is a half-mill on assessed value and would be 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation).
The increase, which would be made if the city could not find the money from within the existing tax rate, would be for five years. The half mill would bring in $60,000 a year, $300,000 over five years.
The vote would be advisory only but it is expected that the council would follow it. Although the council could raise the money by its own action it felt the people should make a major contribution to the decision.
The money would be used to buy new park land and to make elemental improvements. Mayor Cecil O. Creal called for the action because he felt that available open space is disappearing and that unless the city acts now to get land there won’t be any later.
The' proposal for an advisory vote on a children’s zoo was defeated twice, first as a part of the parks motion and then by itself. It was advanced by First Ward Councilwoman Mrs. Eunice L. Burns. Had the proposal gone on the ballot it would involve the use of about $50,000 of the $300,000 to be raised for parks or a separate eighth of a mill for two years, which would raise about $60,000.
The key factor that led to the zoo defeat was the feeling that there was not sufficient public support for a city-owned zoo.
If the people vote in favor of more parks, the council would increase taxes, if necessary, annually. It can do this under existing authority because it is not using all the millage allowed by law. However, if this leeway is not available in some other year, the council either would not have the money for parks that year or could go to the people for a one-year increase over the established millage limit of 7.5 mills.
If the city is to raise funds over the limit for a period longer than one year, the voters would have to approve a charter amendment.
Fourth Ward Councilman Wendell E. Hulcher (R) offered a substitute motion that would have the council state its intention to set aside $60,000 each year for land acquisition from existing revenue. If the money could not be found, then the council would make the necessary increase in the rate. He said it is an incorrect assumption that taxes always must be raised to make improvements. His motion lost.
Third Ward Councilman Robert E. Meader (R), who cast the lone dissenting vote on the parks proposal, said the council does not need more authority to get the money it wants and therefore an advisory vote is not needed. He said the city’s parks program is a good one, one that visitors praise.
Purchase of too much land, he said, would increase the city’s capital and upkeep cost and take property off the tax rolls. Meader said the existing tax rate is high enough and an increase in property taxes would force the city to look for other sources of revenue, thus providing a good argument for an income tax.
“I am all in favor of keeping the tax rate down,” Meader said.
Last January the council declined to put on the April ballot a similar parks proposal that involved a mandatory tax increase rather the advisory vote asked now.