HOWELL – It was anything but business as usual at the April 18 council meeting where the 2017 municipal budget was discussed, an agenda item that has been in the works since October of last year.
Mayor Berger, Deputy Mayor Nicastro and Councilmembers Walsh and O’Donnell listened to a town hall packed with residents deliver a very clear message – the taxes are too high.
Residents would see a 4.4 percent increase in their property taxes this year if the roughly $47 million budget is passed. Many of them spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting to tell councilmembers they are fed up with paying $16-, $17- and $18,000 in taxes on their homes every year.
It seems like the message may have finally gotten through, as Mayor Berger and councilmembers decided not to entertain a motion to adopt the 2017 budget as introduced. An increase to the 2017 temporary budget will now take effect, which will buy the township some time to figure things out.
Officials are now scrambling to find an estimated $913,000 to cut from the budget, in order to create a zero percent tax hike. The question is – where will the money come from?
Aside from the Senior Center, there are no discretionary services left for Howell cut, seeing as the Recreation Department and Youth and Family Services have already made their way out the door. Officials fear that once you start cutting into departments, overtime and fees for outside professionals will increase, creating an even worse financial scenario.
It’s safe to say that the council and officials have their work cut out for them, but they seem willing to work for the citizens of Howell despite many factors outside of their control, such as obligations from the school board and the state.
Another tentative budget meeting is set for April 25 with a time to be announced.