Township board discusses $2.477 million surplus in road millage fund

By Megan Kelley
Clarkston News Editor
INDEPENDENCE TWP — During its meeting on March 19, the Independence Township Board of Trustees discussed what to do with the remaining $2.477 million in surplus monies remaining in the township’s Road Millage Fund.
After some conversation on potential options, the board decided to create a sub committee to further discuss the options with the Road Commission of Oakland County.
 This discussion comes on the heels of a conversation during the board’s Feb. 26 meeting where the board designated an additional $50,000 to the maintenance of gravel roads throughout the township.
At that meeting, Trustee Sam Moraco brought up the surplus money, questioning if that could be used for gravel roads.
 According to township documents, construction on 28 miles of primary roads was completed in 2022. In October of that year, former Township Supervisor Gerald Fisher requested direction from the board on the, at the time, $2.3 million surplus.
 At that time, there were four options presented: return the money to the taxpayers; use the funds for a cut-thru road; use the funds for the Neighborhood Road Improvement Project (NRIP) or other use of the money consistent with the ballot proposal approved by the township voters. The board rejected the first option (to return the money to taxpayers) but no other action was taken at that time.
 Now, after additional interest was earned on available funds, the surplus has grown to reach $2.477 million as well as surplus funds in the amount of $492,000 from Bond Proceeds related to the North Sashabaw Paving bond taken out by the township which can be used to either pay down the principal of the bond or can be used for additional road projects, township documents state.
 Those two combined give the township $2.969 million to use towards improving roads within the township.
 Recently, Township Supervisor Jose Aliaga reached out to the Road Commission of Oakland County to see which roads they felt needed the most attention.
 “The number one is Parview (Drive) for the RCOC because it is a cut-thru route from Dixie (Highway) the Andersonville (Road). There are other roads as well but they believe this one is the one they need the most, according to RCOC. Whether we agree or disagree, this data comes from the county. It’s not coming from my office or anyone else,” Aliaga said. “We have enough money to do this and the county is willing to contribute with engineering costs and 50% of the design engineering. The township would pay 100% of the construction cost but that’s already what we have left over. We have enough money to do this if we decide that way.”
 The township also has other options for what they can do with the surplus, including using some of it for gravel roads or adding to Special Assessment District (SAD) funds.
 Treasurer Paul Brown spoke regarding his concerns for using township money to maintain residential roads.
 “We need to think about putting money into residential streets. There are lots of residential streets in our township that are in terrible shape and to me, taking $2.5 million and it benefiting 66 single family homes on Parview (Drive) and then there’s 212 apartments and a couple commercial (buildings); a senior living building and a medical building. The greatest amount of that benefit is going, really, to the apartments and it’s not going to benefit the apartment renters, it’s going to benefit the owners. I just feel like taking all of that money and putting it into that road disenfranchises all the other taxpayers that paid into the $2.9 million,” Brown said.
 Brown also noted that initially the board had thought it best to just return the money to the taxpayers, they found that would be more helpful for big businesses than the average taxpayer.
 “You take about 24% of it right off the top, so north of $600,000 and it’s going to big corporations: DTE Energy, all the apartment complexes and multiple other businesses. So, you see, the top 40 or 50 taxpayers in the township are businesses. But, I promise you DTE isn’t going to lower your electric bill if we give them back that money. The people in the apartments aren’t going to get that back either just because we refunded it,” Brown said.
 Brown also added that administratively, tracking people down to return the money would be “almost impossible” to do without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.
 In Brown’s opinion, he felt the surplus money should be spent on “very dangerous intersections” like White Lake Road and Dixie Highway, Deer Hill Drive and Big Lake Road, and Mann Road and Clintonville Road.
 Moraco expressed his worry that this was going to be a continuous cycle for the township because the county isn’t properly maintaining the roads. Moraco also stated that he felt the Downtown Development Authority should focus on road maintenance as well.
 Trustee Ronald Ritchie spoke to remind residents and board members that the township does not own its roads, all roads in the township are either privately owned or owned by Oakland County.
 “Quit acting like it’s the township’s responsibility, because it’s not. We don’t own the roads. Oakland County owns the roads,” Ritchie said. “Any residential road that we participate in with the Neighborhood Road Improvement Fund or any other method is still going to be primarily funded by the occupants of those homes. That’s the way it works.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.