County Mental Health Millage
There has been a lot of half-truths and worse spread around town regarding the November 2017 County millage. Here are the facts.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners proposed a fairly complicated millage to the voters in November 2017. The millage passed. Monies raised by the millage are allocated as follows:
38% Community Mental Health
38% Washtenaw County Sheriff
24% Rebate to Policing Jurisdictions
38% for Community Mental Health. Community mental heath services – services to adults with a severe and persistent mental illness, children with a severe emotional disturbance, and individuals with a developmental disability – are provided by Washtenaw County, not the City of Ann Arbor. Even as the need for mental health services is increasing, federal and state cuts have forced the County to reduce staff and turn away patients. The money raised will support mental health crisis intervention, prevent mental health treatment gaps, pay for mental health prevention and education services, and fund in-jail mental health and treatment programs. The City of Ann Arbor does not have any public health or community mental health services. All public health and community mental health services performed in Ann Arbor are performed by Washtenaw County employees.
Every single Community Mental Health dollar from Ann Arbor will go to Community Mental Health.
38% for the Washtenaw County Sheriff. The money raised by the millage will implement diversion programs to treat and manage low-level drug offenders, train law enforcement officers to better engage mentally ill persons, and expand behavioral health services in Washtenaw County Jail.
Every single Sheriff dollar from Ann Arbor will go to the Sheriff.
24% for a Policing Jurisdiction rebate. These monies are rebated to the seven Washtenaw County communities that already provide police or law enforcement services. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners believed that it would be unfair to ask policing communities to pay additional public safety taxes for, say Sheriff Township road patrol, without a rebate because they currently support police departments for these public safety functions. These rebate dollars, therefore, are unallocated and unrestricted. The County Board intended, and the ballot language provides, that the rebated communities can use them for any purpose whatsoever.
For Ann Arbor, this Fairness Rebate will mean approximately $2.3M/yr for the next 8 years. In the interest of transparency, therefore, before the people’s vote, I drafted with Councilmembers Smith, Ackerman, and Frenzel a resolution that pledged Council’s use of the Fairness Rebate going forward – to ensure that voters understood what was being asked of them in November 2017. This resolution passed on a vote of 8-3. Specifically, for the duration of the millage we pledged to use rebated monies as follows:
Twenty percent (20%) will be applied to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety through the installation of new street lighting in accordance with approved plans, installation of pedestrian-activated signals, filling of sidewalk gaps, construction of protected and/or buffered bicycle facilities (in accordance with approved Transportation and Non-Motorized Master Plans), and funding of trail and other off-road active transportation connections (including the B2B and/or Treeline Trails). Ann Arbor already spends millions per year on pedestrian/bicycle safety infrastructure, but we have a long ways to go before we meet our mobility aspirations. These monies will be incredibly helpful.
Forty percent (40%) will be applied to support the construction, renovation, and capital improvements of affordable housing assets (including the Broadway Apartments and Swift Housing Project) and the establishment of a sinking fund to provide for utilities connection fees, environmentally sustainable systems, and other infrastructure costs for future projects to effect the goals of the Affordable Housing Needs Assessment. According to the Affordable Housing Needs Assessment, Ann Arbor needs 2800+ units of new affordable housing before 2035 if we are to avoid permanent demographic and economic stratification in our community. The Housing Commission has estimated that the $5M from the Library Lot sale would leverage between 200 – 500 units of permanent affordable housing. Over the eight years of the millage, the $8M+ that we would devote to affordable housing will enable us to take important steps forward towards our affordable housing goals. There are no realistic alternative recurring funding sources for affordable housing.
Forty percent (40%) will be applied to effect the goals of Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan including but not limited to funding EnergySmart Ann Arbor efforts in the areas of home audits, education and other programs that serve to improve energy efficiency and reduce consumption, Charge Up Ann Arbor! programs which support electric vehicle charging infrastructure, group buys and fleet conversions, and Solar for All programs providing discounted individual solar purchases for owned residential and commercial properties and community solar offerings. Ann Arbor has an ambitious Climate Action Plan, but local climate advocates estimate that to implement that plan would require $800K - $1.1M per year. Right now, our recurring Climate Action Plan funding had been less than $200K. The rebate monies of $900K/yr will put Ann Arbor back on track. There are no realistic alternative recurring funding sources for climate action.
We actually voted on this Use Resolution twice. Once in the Summer and once in September 2017. It was the subject of multiple M-Live articles. I personally sent communication to thousands of Ann Arbor residents in advance of the November vote, informing them of the proposal.
Some in our community are asking Council to go back on its word, to use these Fairness Rebate monies for other uses. I will oppose these efforts. Pedestrian Safety, Climate Action, and Affordable Housing have been longstanding Ann Arbor priorities that were chronically underfunded (if that) because of our overriding focus on basic services. Now with these millage monies in place, we have a fighting chance to move these values forward. Furthermore, I believe that voters ought to be able to rely upon Council’s word. If we go back on our September 2017 pledge to the voters, it would be profound breach of trust.