Patterson Proposes Tax Cut in Annual State of the County Address

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson called for a reduction in county property taxes of .15 mills over two years during his 2015 State of the County address Wednesday night in Pontiac. When approved by the Board of Commissioners, homeowners will save $75 million over the next decade.

L. Brooks Patterson

L. Brooks Patterson

“Imagine, that’s $75 million back into your pockets for use as you see fit. It will stimulate the local economy and certainly contribute to a stronger quality of life in Oakland County,” Patterson said. “How can we do this when other governments are struggling? You’ve heard me say it time and time again at my State of the County addresses: we exercise thoughtful management not crisis management.”

Patterson also announced the expansion of the county’s cyber security initiative aimed at local governments to include businesses and residents. The press release went on to say CySAFE (Cyber Security Assessment for Everyone) was launched last September to help government agencies determine how susceptible they are to hackers and intruders, identify weak points, and prioritize solutions by urgency and cost-effectiveness.

“Oakland County believes governments should not be the only ones with access to the best technology to optimize cyber security,” Patterson said.

Patterson also highlighted many positive economic indicators in Oakland County in his speech, including:

  • The Oakland County business community has added a net total of nearly 80,000 new jobs since 2009.
  • The Oakland County One Stop Shop Business Center witnessed small business loans triple from $7 million in 2012 to more than $22 million in 2013. In the past two years, it has found access to capital exceeding $52 million creating hundreds of jobs and enabling nearly $30 million in loans for small and second stage companies.
  • Oakland County now boasts 57 percent of the Global Fortune 500 with more than 1,020 foreign owned multinational companies from 38 different countries.
  • Emerging Sectors, launched in 2004 to transform the county from a manufacturing-based to knowledge-based economy, is on the cusp of the $3 billion investment mark. That’s from 313 companies creating or retaining more than 50,000 jobs.
  • Oakland County’s Medical Main Street, which markets the region as a destination for medical tourism, is about to reach $1 billion in private investment.
  • Automation Alley, which promotes an eight county region as a high-tech hub, has reached the half-billion dollar mark in export sales since its inception.
  • Foreclosures in 2014 returned to 2002 levels of 1,900.

Other notable facts Patterson announced:

  • Oakland County continues to retain its AAA bond rating after 17 years.
  • The county has met Patterson’s pledge to reduce energy consumption 15 percent by 2015, saving taxpayers more than $4.7 million. The energy savings will get a boost as the county replaces 600 high-pressure sodium lights in its parking lots with more energy-efficient LED lighting.
  • Oakland County’s Department of Health and Human Services helped halve the infant mortality rate in the African-American community with collaborative programs in the community over the course of a decade.

Finally, Patterson updated the ongoing efforts surrounding the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). He commended Oakland County’s regional partners.

“Perhaps as a group, The Big Four has accomplished nothing more impactful for our region than the formation of the Great Lakes Water Authority framework,” Patterson said.

There is, however, still much to be done.

“The hard work of turning the framework agreement into a functional reality is what today’s efforts are targeted at,” Patterson said.

If Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) is unable to meet specific conditions outlined in both the Memorandum of Understanding and Articles of Incorporation that created the GLWA, the authority will automatically dissolve.

“The Great Lakes Water Authority is hardly Camelot,” Patterson said. “The authority is not a completed deal yet. If certain conditions precedent cannot be achieved, the authority will terminate by its express provisions.”

He specifically outlined information that has been released by DWSD at recent public meetings.

“Unfortunately today the water revenues, and thus the cash flowing into DWSD, are not meeting either budgetary expectations or those projections that were set out before entering the MOU. The volume flows (i.e., units billed – against which rates are applied to produce revenue) have been falling off for years. Said differently, the previous expectation of the water revenues improving and providing resources sufficient to help make the new payments within the capped revenue requirement seems less likely to be met today than when the MOU was signed in September,” Patterson said.

In addition, key financial information needed to move forward is unavailable.

“Unfortunately, the June 30, 2014, audited financial information remains elusive. The city is still closing its books. Without this information the transition team cannot finish its work in assessing the financial conditions of DWSD towards the preparation of a lease we all can agree to,” Patterson said.

He emphasized, however, the goal of a functioning regional water authority is still possible.

“I want to note that I still believe the launch of an effective authority remains an obtainable goal,” Patterson said. “But we are not there yet. And we all need to understand that there are enough challenges and surprises along the way that a fully functioning Great Lakes Water Authority may yet be beyond the reach of us mere mortals.”

To read Patterson’s complete 2015 State of the County speech, go to Video of the address will be uploaded to Oakland County’s YouTube account.

The State of the County address was held at Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint before an estimated audience of 550 attendees. Patterson was introduced by the winner of Oakland County’s 2015 Elite 40 Under 40, Melody Arabo, a teacher from Walled Lake Schools.

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