On the November, 2020 general election ballot, Ann Arbor residents will vote on two millages regarding the city's transportation infrastructure.
ANN ARBOR CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT
TAX FOR STREET, BRIDGE, AND SIDEWALK REPAIR
Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a new tax up to 2.125 mills for street and bridge repair and for sidewalk repair and construction for 2022 through 2026 to replace the previously authorized tax up to 2.125 mills for street and bridge repair and for sidewalk repair and construction for 2017 through 2021, which will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $13,816,870. In accordance with State law, a portion of the millage may be subject to capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
ANN ARBOR CITY CHARTER AMENDMENT
TAX FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW SIDEWALKS
Shall the Charter be amended to authorize a tax up to 0.20 mills for the construction of new sidewalks for 2021 through 2026, which will raise in the first year of levy the estimated revenue of $1,300,411. In accordance with State law, a portion of the millage may be subject to capture by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority.
Commonly asked questions
1. What were Millage funds used for?
A: From 2012 to 2020, the street and sidewalk millage generated nearly $94 million in revenue, which was the primary funding source for improving and maintaining Ann Arbor's 200 miles of residential streets, 100 miles of major streets, 14 bridges and 435 miles of sidewalk. Funds were also used for the city’s match to be eligible to receive Federal Aid funds for major street reconstruction and bridge rehabilitation projects.
Prior to the 1980s, Ann Arbor had no dedicated funds for street reconstruction and repair. As a means to improve the quality of the city’s road transportation system, citizens approved the first Street Reconstruction Millage in 1984. Voters also approved the collection of 2 mills annually for five years each for the reconstruction of streets in 1988, 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006. In 2011, and again in 2016, the sidewalk repairs were added and the millage amount was increased to 2.125 mills.
2. How much is the new Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage?
A: On the November 3, 2020 ballot, voters will be asked to renew a 2.125-mill tax for funding street, bridge, and sidewalk repairs for five years (2022-2026), which will raise in the first year of the levy an estimated revenue of $13.8 million. Because of Michigan tax laws, the annual levy amount paid will vary by household depending on its Taxable value. For example, the 2016 levy amount for a property with a Taxable value of $107,000 is $225 because the 2.125-mill rate has been rolled back over five years to 2.1057 mills (or $210 for every $100,000). If a new Millage is approved, this same household will still pay $227.00 in 2017 because the millage rate would be increased to the full 2.125 mills. By operation of law, the 2.125-mill rate will potentially roll back during the five years the millage is in effect.
3. Why are sidewalk repairs included in the Millage?
A: In 2011, voters approved an additional 1/8 (0.125) mill for purposes of performing sidewalk repairs. Prior to this (and the associated changes to City Code), adjacent property owners were
responsible for making repairs to sidewalks adjacent to their property. Feedback indicated a strong preference to have the city be responsible for performing these sidewalk repairs. In 2011, this was presented to voters as two separate ballot proposals. In 2016, it was simplified to one ballot proposal for the Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage, which encompasses the city’s “Complete Streets” philosophy to accommodate all modes of travel. The new mileage may be used for the construction of new sidewalks, but will not be used to fund any portion of new sidewalk construction that would otherwise be funded by special assessment. To the extent the new millage is used for the repair of individual sidewalks slabs, it will be used only for sidewalks adjacent to properties outside the Downtown Development District (“DDD”) against which the city levies property taxes and adjacent to single- and two-family houses within the DDD against which the city levies property taxes.
4. What significant projects have been completed with the Street Reconstruction Millage?
A: Millage funds support the Annual Street Resurfacing Program, which addresses the resurfacing of residential and major streets as a single large contract that is bid every spring.
Millage funds also support major street reconstructions and bridge rehabilitation projects that leverage the Millage with Federal Aid funds. The projects have included Dexter Avenue, Miller Avenue, Stone School Road, Packard Road, and a variety of pedestrian crossing and safety improvements.
From the 2012 to 2019 construction seasons, the equivalent of approximately 38 miles of sidewalk have been replaced and an additional 20,000 sidewalk slabs have been repaired. Additional work is still pending for the 2020 and 2021 construction seasons.
A map of these projects can be seen above.
5. What types of projects are eligible for Street Reconstruction Millage funds?
A: The 2022 Street, Bridge, and Sidewalk Millage may be used for the following, including without limitation:
- Resurfacing or reconstruction of existing paved city streets and bridges, including on-street bicycle lanes and other non-motorized facilities;
- Construction, reconstruction, or enhancement of pedestrian crosswalks;
- Reconstruction and construction of accessible street crossings and corner ramps;
- Capital Preventative Maintenance (CPM) measures for existing paved streets and bridges;
- Repair and/or replacement of sidewalks within the public right-of-way adjacent to properties against which the city levies property taxes; and
- Construction of new sidewalks, but only to the extent the funded portion would not otherwise be funded by special assessment, and only if the New Sidewalk Millage does not pass.
6. How does the Street Reconstruction Millage leverage Federal funds?
A: Michigan receives federal transportation funds that are allocated among local communities through organizations such as WATS* for major street projects. A prerequisite to receive funding is the local community must supply local funds to match any federal funding received. Typically, the construction contract costs on any qualified project are split approximately 20 percent local share and 80 percent federal share. All expenses for a design of a project are paid by local agencies. Without a local supply of matching funds, a community is not eligible to receive this type of federal aid.
*The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) is a multi-jurisdictional agency responsible for transportation planning in Washtenaw County. The agency is mandated by Federal law to provide a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process, which guides the expenditure of state and federal transportation funds in Washtenaw County.
7. If the millage fails, how will the city pay for street reconstruction projects?
A: Future street resurfacing, sidewalk, and bridge projects would need to be delayed.
8. How are streets selected for repairs?
A: Recently, the City of Ann Arbor has developed a new methodology to determine how streets are selected for repair. Staff is in the final stages of development of a long-term Pavement Asset Management Plan, an approach for street repairs that focuses on applying “the right fix at the right time.” Traditionally, the City concentrated on resurfacing or reconstructing streets in poor condition. But due to the expense of such measures, only a limited number of streets could be addressed each year, allowing all other streets to deteriorate. By applying preventive maintenance measures such as crack and surface sealing to streets in fair to good condition, more streets can be mended each year and at an earlier point in their life. Street conditions are evaluated approximately every three years for distress elements such as dips, ruts and cracks and other signs of pavement wear. A Pavement Surface and Evaluation Score (PASER rating) is assigned to each block. PASER scores are then utilized to assist in determining what streets to treat and the best “fix” for each one selected.
Other factors involved in selecting streets for repair include availability of federal funds (primarily for reconstruction projects on major roads) and the need for other associated infrastructure improvements such as underground utilities. For example, if future water, sanitary sewer, or storm water construction is planned on a street, the City will attempt to wait and align the resurfacing of the street with that construction. The City also strives to coordinate adjoining street projects so that construction will take place at one time to minimize inconvenience.
9. Why does it take longer to reconstruct a city street as opposed to highways?
A: Oftentimes, a residential and/or urban reconstruction includes the replacement of many underground utilities (sanitary, storm, water main, water main services, edge drain, and electrical conduit), all of which need to be installed in separate trenches while working around existing utilities and the associated service leads. Also, contractors may be required to maintain access to side streets and driveways during the installation of utilities and later with the placement of curb, sidewalk, drive approaches, and road surface much of the work must be done in several phases. Also, late-evening work is often limited due to noise ordinance restrictions and the daytime hours for material pits. Urban environments often have little room for stockpiling material (e.g.,
sand and stone), so the construction operations are subject to the ongoing daytime removal and delivery of materials.
10. Will the new sidewalk millage pay for filling sidewalk gaps?
A: Yes, that is the explicit purpose of the New Sidewalk Millage. The millage would pay for all the costs associated with sidewalk gap filling projects, and would replace the need to specially assess adjacent property owners for such projects.
11. If my property was assessed to pay for new sidewalk in the past, will the city refund my money out of the new sidewalk construction millage?
A: No, only projects approved starting in 2021 will be eligible.
12. How much sidewalk will be built with the new sidewalk construction millage?
A: This will vary depending on the level of complexity of each sidewalk gap project selected in any given year. On average, it is expected that approximately 5,000 to 6,500 feet of new sidewalks would be constructed each year.