Eastpointe: Property Values Rise as Taxable Values Inch Up

This post is the first of many that will demonstrate the difference between the taxable and assessed values in communities throughout Southeastern Michigan and explain the various taxes levied in these communities and their use. We will highlight at least one community in each county in the region and this post discusses Eastpointe in Macomb County. Eastpointe, formerly known as East Detroit, has a population of about 32,000, a median income of about $46,000 and a median home value of $64,700, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The chart below shows the taxable value and assessed value of a hypothetical Eastpointe home, beginning in July of 1998 through December of 2019. The taxable value is the value used to calculate a property’s taxes, and each year it can only increase by 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This number may be equal to the property’s state equalized, or assessed value, but not more than those values. Such limits on tax growth, or lack thereof, is a result of Proposal A, a state constitutional amendment approved by voter referendum in 1994. The assessed value of a property, or the state equalized valued (SEV), is usually about half of a property’s true cash value, and the true cash value is the fair market value of the property.

In 1998 the taxable value of the Eastpointe property examined was $40,000 and the assessed value was $50,000. In July of 2007 the assessed value of the property peaked at $83,252 but the taxable value was only at $50,186. By 2008 the Great Recession hit Southeastern Michigan and both the assessed values and taxable values of properties began to decline. Between July of 2007 and July of 2010 the assessed value decreased from $83,252 to $40,700, or more than 50 percent ($40,000). The annual declines continued after the recession, and the assessed value of the property reached its lowest point in July of 2014 at $34,641, a nearly 60% decline from its peak. Since July of 2014 the assessed value of the property has increased to $47,840.

As noted, the taxable value of the property was $40,000 in July of 1998, but it did not increase nearly as much as the assessed value did, because it cannot rise more than the rate of inflation or 5 percent from year-to-year. As a result, the taxable value of the property did not peak until July of 2009 ($53,599). A year later though, in July of 2010, the taxable value plummeted to $39,749. A property’s taxable value can decrease in such a way if there is a physical loss to the property and/or if the property is sold in the previous tax year. The Great Recession began in 2008 and by 2010 the taxable value of properties were on the decline, ultimately affecting governmental budgets, and services. In July of 2013 the taxable value of this Eastpointe property reached its low point at $30,804. Since then the taxable value of the property has only increased to $33,095.

Due to economic trends and the way taxable values and assessed values are calculated under Proposal A of, the assessed value of a property is nearly always higher than the taxable value. For this specific property, the only time the taxable value and assessed value were nearly the same was in July of 2009, when the taxable value was $39,749 and the assessed value was $40,700. In addition, while the gap between the two values has not been nearly as large as it was prior to the recession, since 2016 that gap has been widening.

As noted earlier, our various forms of government rely on property taxes to function, primarily our local governments (municipalities and school districts). The chart above shows that just because the local economy is recovering since the Great Recession, the budgets of local governments are not necessarily reaping the benefits. According to a recent report by the Michigan Municipal League, 173 cities in Michigan have experienced a 2 percent or less revenue growth in the last 15 years and an additional 52 have experienced a budget growth of 3 percent or more. For Eastpointe, according to the a recent report released by the Michigan Municipal League, the total revenue for the city in 2002 was $22.3 million, and in 2017 it was $25.8 million. While the total revenue for Eastpointe has increased by 16 percent the revenue generated by property and income taxes declined by 23 percent. However, while the effects of limited property tax have negatively affected municipalities across the state, the slow growth of such taxes has benefitted for the property owners. According to a September 2018 Detroit Free Press article while income growth in the state has increased since the last recession, household incomes prior to the recession have not yet been recouped. Since incomes are also recovering at a slower rate, it can be viewed that the slow growth rate of property tax revenue is allowing property owners to better stay afloat economically.

It should be noted though that a, at least in Southeastern Michigan, local tax bills have become gradually more complicated as voters approve additional tax levies, to help make up for the loss in revenue as a result of the recession, and the loss in revenue due to the limited growth of taxable values. Next week we will examine the various taxes levied for this hypothetical Eastpointe property, including what they are for, what additional ones have been added over time and how the overall tax amount for the property has either increased, or decreased, over time.

Alcohol Causes Most Traffic Deaths in Southeastern Michigan, Distracted Driving Causes Most Injuries

Traffic fatalities in Michigan totaled just under 1,000 in 2018, a number that officials from the Michigan State Police said is too high. However, that number was below the 2016 and 2017 traffic fatality numbers which rose above 1,000. Below we examine the number of traffic fatalities and injuries in Southeastern Michigan, along with the number of fatalities and injuries related to alcohol, distracted driving and drugs. As the charts show, of the factors examined, alcohol is the largest contributor to traffic fatalities in the region.  

Wayne County, which is also the largest county in the state, had the highest number of traffic fatalities at 164, 63 of which were alcohol related. Distracted driving contributed to 6 of the164 deaths and drugs contributed to 38. Oakland and Macomb counties had the second and third highest number of traffic fatalities in the region at 54 and 53. In Oakland County, of the 54 traffic fatalities, 13 were alcohol related, 3 were related to distracted driving and 8 were related to drugs. For Macomb County, alcohol contributed to 18 of the 53 traffic deaths and distracted driving contributed to 3 of the deaths; there were not any drug related traffic deaths.

When looking at the percentage of alcohol related traffic deaths compared to the total number of traffic deaths, Monroe County had the highest rate. Of the 29 traffic deaths in Monroe County in 2018, 48 percent of them (14) were alcohol related. St. Clair County had the lowest percentage at 6 percent. In 2018 there were 16 traffic deaths in St. Clair County and 1 was alcohol related. With those two exceptions, the percentage of alcohol related traffic deaths ranges between 24 and 38 percent.

Of the other two factors, drugs contributed more to traffic fatalities than distracted driving.

Injuries related to vehicle accidents are higher than fatalities and while Wayne, Oakland and Macomb still had the highest numbers in the region, the data shows that distracted driving was reported to be the largest contributor of the factors examined. Overall, data indicated that distracted driving contributed to an average of 10 percent of the traffic related injuries in Southeastern Michigan in 2018. In Macomb C, Monroe and Washtenaw counties distracted driving contributed to 11 percent of the traffic related injuries and in Wayne County distracted driving contributed to 7 percent.

 Although Wayne County had the lowest percentage of distracted driving related traffic injuries in the region, it had the highest number at 1,082 (there were 16,578 total injuries). Alcohol was related to 897 traffic injuries in Wayne County and drugs were related to 281 injuries. In Oakland County there were 10,105 total traffic related injuries, 572 of which were alcohol related, 1,013 of which were related to distracted driving and 199 of which were related to drugs. In Macomb County there were 7,360 traffic related injuries, 391 of which were related to alcohol, 813 of which were related to distracted driving, and none of which were related to drugs. And, while Macomb County did not report any drug related traffic injuries in 2018, St. Clair County was the only county in the region where there were more drug related traffic injuries than alcohol or distracted driving injuries. In 2018 there were 931 traffic injuries in St. Clair County, 122 of which were related to drugs. 

While the full 2019 Michigan State Police Report on traffic fatalities and injuries has not been released, officials maintain that they continue to strive for fewer than 1,000 fatalities each year. Additionally, officials have said they believe the lower 2018 number is related to additional efforts made to educate drivers and stricter enforcement. The 2019 numbers will be released in March, and at that time we will examine the new data and compare it to historical data.

Real Time Water Monitoring System Will Need Regional Support

In Southeastern Michigan there are 14 wastewater treatment plants that did, and plan to again, participate in a real time water monitoring system. This real time water monitoring system would span from Port Huron to Monroe, from where Lake Huron meets the St. Clair River down to Lake Erie. The purpose of the system is to better ensure the water basin that provides drinking water to more than 3 million people remains clean, and if there is contamination, those who run the water plants could shutoff intake to ensure contaminants do not enter the drinking water.

Current events in Southeastern Michigan, such as the collapse of a site into the Detroit River that is potentially contaminated with uranium and the leaking of green hexavalent chromium ooze onto I-696 near stormwater drains, are a reminder of just how easily our waterways can become contaminated. While steps certainly need to be taken to avoid contaminants entering our waterways, a full scale real time water monitoring system is also vital for public health. However, that has not always been a priority.

The real time water monitoring system was first established in 2006 with $3.5 million in funding provided by the federal government; local governments at the county and municipal level also initially chipped in. However, by 2011 the system was no more as funding dried up. The reasons? According to a 2016 MLive article, local communities did not have the funds to allocate toward the operation and maintenance of the system and would not pass the operational charges along to the ratepayers. Additionally, a 2012 Municipal and Sewer Magazine article stated that some of the communities along the Huron to Erie water real time water monitoring system corridor were concerned about the data the system was producing and wanted to invest money in their own systems, not a regional one. 

Since 2011 the region has been left without a real time water monitoring system due to lack of and interest in funding. That is until in 2017 when then Gov. Rick Snyder allocated $375,000 in his budget. The Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) has since been charged with procuring and installing the water monitoring system. According a SEMCOG representative, the updated installation of the system is near completion and they hope to have real time data from it pushed to public in the near future. In December they gave no indication that any of the stations were running, just that a stakeholder meeting would be happening in the near future.

While the re-investment in the system gives way to updated infrastructure needed to protect our waterways and public health, as the story of the system’s past shows, regional investment and collaboration will be necessary for its success.  As of the beginning December, no funds beyond the 2017 investment by the state had been allocated to the system and staff at the Michigan Department of the Environment, Great Lakes and Energy were unaware of the system and its funding. Funding options may vary in keeping the system operating-whether it be surcharges passed on to ratepayers, additional taxes levied or additional funds found in government budgets. However the funds are found, they need to be allocated to protect the public health of the region and cleanliness of our greatest natural asset.

If the communities along the Huron-to-Erie water basin don’t come together to collaborate at a regional level to keep this system running, history could repeat itself leaving the region without a system to protect our health.

The image below was provided by SEMCOG and shows the locations where the real time water monitoring system sites will operate from, which are water treatment plants throughout the region. These sites were also part of the original system that was established in 2006.

STD Rates on the Rise in Southeastern Michigan

Throughout Southeastern Michigan, Wayne County has consistently had the highest sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates since at least 2009, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Below are three charts showing the rates per 100,000 people for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. All three charts show that the rate at which individuals in Wayne County have one of those STDs is much higher than any of the neighboring counties. Additionally, Livingston County had such low numbers of sexually transmitted infections accounted for there was no data available for some of the STDs.

The first chart below shows the rates people with chlamydia per 100,000 between 2009 and 2018 for the counties in Southeastern Michigan. Wayne County’s rate peaked at 1,213.6 in 2010 but has since declined to 872.6 per 100,000 people in 2018. The sheer number of chlamydia cases reported in Wayne County in 2018 was 15,305. The county with the lowest number of cases per capita was Livingston County. In 2009 the rate was 112.1 cases per 100,00 people and by 2018 that number increased to 312.5 cases per people. In 2018, 318 cases of chlamydia were reported in Livingston County. Unlike with Wayne County, all the other counties in the region experienced an overall increase in the rate at which people were contracting the infection. Of the three types of STDs explored in this post, chlamydia has the highest number of cases reported, making it the most common.

The national trend also appears to show an increase in the number of people becoming infected with an STD. Although no specific reason was given for the decrease in Wayne County’s number it could be related to an increase in information related to sexual education and access to condoms, which are the primary prevention source beyond abstinence.

Wayne County again had the highest rate for the STD examined in the chart below, which is gonorrhea. However, the trend for this infection is not as similar to the trend for chlamydia. For Wayne County, there were 457.2 gonorrhea cases per 100,000 people reported in 2009, and while that number dipped to 213.4 cases per 100,000 people in 2014 it has since increased to 363.4 cases per 100,000 people. While it is fair there has been an overall decrease in the amount of gonorrhea cases reported over the last 10 years, there seems to be a trend of those numbers rising. In 2018 in Wayne there was a total of 6,374 gonorrhea cases reported.

St. Clair County regularly had the lowest rates reported for gonorrhea infections between 2009 and 2018. In 2009 there were 79 cases reported per 100,000 people and in 2018 that number decreased to 45.2 (72 cases total). However, the number of cases dropped so low in 2014 and 2015 a rate wasn’t able to be calculated, again showing the trend where there has been an overall decrease in cases, but the numbers are beginning to tick up.

For some counties, like Macomb, Oakland and Washtenaw, the per capita number has increased above the  number reported in 2009. Washtenaw County had the second highest per capita number of cases reported throughout the time frame. In 2018 the gonorrhea rate was 141 cases per 100,000 people (523 cases). While an overall increase from the 2009 rate of  95.8 cases 100,000 people, it is more than 200 points below the Wayne County rate.

Syphilis has the lowest rate among the sexually transmitted infections examined in this post, so low that only data for Wayne, Macomb Oakland and Washtenaw counties was available. Wayne County had the highest rates between 2009 and 2018. In 2009 Wayne County had a rate of 17.4 cases per 100,000 people and in 2018 that increased to 44.8 cases per 100,000 people, or a total of 786 cases. Of the counties with reported data it was Macomb County with the lowest rates, in 2011 (the first year when per capita data was reported) the rate was 6.8 cases per 100,000 people and in 2017 (the most recent year for data) the rate increased to 11.8 syphilis cases per 100,000 people, or 148 cases.

Overall the trend remains that the number of STD cases continue to rise, with the 26 years of age and under population experiencing the largest number of cases, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. In the charts above you will see that Washtenaw County regularly falls in second or third in terms of rankings for the per capita rates of any one of the three infections discussed above. This likely has to do with the fact that Washtenaw County is home to both the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.

Overall, experts believe part of the rise is related to misinformation or overall lack of information on STDs. They urge those who are sexually active to be open and honest with both their partner(s) and health care providers about regular testing, and proper treatment if necessary, to ensure the STD isn’t spread to additional people. Information on ways to best prevent STDs, such as use of condoms, regular testing and abstinence, are also encouraged to be discussed more with all individuals, particularly those under the age of 26.

For more information on STD testing, prevention and other information click here

Economic Indicators: Industrial Areas Seeing Increase in Leasing

In October of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.5, the same as it was for the month of September, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for October of 2018 was only slightly higher than it was this year in October, 3.7.

In October of 2019 Detroit’s unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.  That Detroit unemployment rate was 0.7 points lower in October of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the October 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was 1.5 points lower from the previous year. In October of 2018 it was 9.3 percent.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for October of 2018 and 2019. In October of 2019 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.5. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5.

Between October of 2018 and 2019 each county in the region had a lower unemployment rate in 2019 than the previous year; the county with the largest decrease was Macomb County. In October of 2018 the unemployment rate in Macomb County was 4.1 and in October of 2019 it decreased to 3. Also, Macomb, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties all had unemployment rates at 3 percent or lower while St. Clair and Wayne counties had unemployment rates at 4.1 and 4.5, respectively.

The availability of industrial spaces is another aspect of an area’s financial health and below is information from the quarterly reports of Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate firm, which produces information related to Metro-Detroit. According to the company, leasing of industrial spaces in the third quarter of 2019 is up from the second quarter, with the Airport area having the strongest increase by landing companies such as DSV and Crane World Wide Logistics with their lease renewals. Additionally, the overall vacancy rate in the Metro-Detroit area is at 2.9 percent, and as shown in the first chart below the Downriver and East side areas have the lowest vacancy rates at 1.5 percent. The Southfield area has the highest vacancy rate at 5 percent.

The second chart below shows the average cost of industrial spaces in the region per square foot. There are three different types of industrial space as defined by Cushman and Wakefield and those are: manufacturing, office space and warehouse/distribution spaces. As the chart shows, office space has the highest market value, with the Southfield area having the highest cost at $14.19 per square feet. In nearly all the areas warehouse/distribution spaces has the second highest cost with Southfield again having the highest market rate at $7.15 per square foot. In the Downriver and Troy areas though manufacturing spaces have a higher market rate than the warehouse space. In Downriver, manufacturing spaces average $4.94 per square foot and warehouse spaces average $4.80 per square foot; in Troy manufacturing spaces average $7.22 per square foot and $5.60 per square foot for warehouse spaces. Troy also has the highest market value for manufacturing spaces in the region.

According to Cushman and Wakefield, there is an expectation that utilization of industrial spaces will continue to increase in 2020 meaning a continuation of low vacancy rates.

The above chart shows the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $129,250 in September 2019; this was $800 lower than the average family dwelling price in August. The September 2019 price was an increase of $4,460 from September of 2018 and an increase of $11,650 from September of 2017, an increase of $19,470 from September of 2016 and increase of  $25,670 from September of 2015 and, finally, an increase of 
$30,910 from September of 2014.

Revenue Sharing for Michigan Counties Remains Stagnant

The State of Michigan has consistently disinvested in local government by providing less and less in revenue sharing. Cities, townships, villages and counties all rely on this funding to address there budget needs. But, since 2002 the State has withheld more than $8 billion. We have discussed the loss of revenue sharing-both constitutional and statutory-for the local municipalities, however we have not explored revenue sharing at the county level. Unlike cities, townships and villages, counties do not receive constitutional revenue sharing but rather only statutory revenue sharing. The chart below shows data from the Department of Treasury, which reported on the amount of revenue sharing each county received since 2013. The 2020 number below is the expected amount each county is to receive for fiscal year 2020.

According to the State Revenue Sharing Act of 1971 counties are to receive between 21 and 25 percent of sales tax revenue at the 4 percent rate. That changed for a short period of time when in Fiscal Year 2004-05 revenue sharing payments to counties were temporarily suspended. At that time counties were required to create a reserve fund with their own general fund dollars; counties were then allowed to withdrawal funds in lieu of the state revenue sharing funds that were not being dispersed, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Once a county exhausted its reserve fund then it could again become eligible for state revenue sharing funds. To add to that, in 2013 counties also became eligible for County Incentive Program Funds; 20 percent of a counties revenue sharing was based on eligibility in this program. These funds are allocated if a county meets certain transparency and accountability standards set by the State.

As the chart shows above, there has not been a serious increase in county revenue sharing since 2015, and between 2014 and 2015 Wayne County received the largest increase of about $10 million. This increase did not come from the County Incentive Program Funds, which accounted for about $10 million in 2014 and 2015, but from its statutory funding. In 2014 Wayne County received about $40 million in revenue sharing and in 2015 that increased to about $50 million. For Fiscal Year 2020 Wayne County it was proposed Wayne County receive about $52 million in revenue sharing, a small increase from its $50 million appropriation in 2015. In 2020 Wayne County’s revenue sharing payment is to be eligible to be $42 million from statutory funding and $10 million from the County Incentive Program. 

Another item to note is how Oakland County did not receive revenue sharing in 2013 and 2014. According to the data Oakland County was not eligible for any type of revenue sharing funding in either year. Although no specific information was available as to why, it could have been that the County used its reserve funds by 2013 and was not eligible for restored funding from the State until 2015.

One of the components of revenue sharing formulas is population, which is reflected in the amount of funding each county received in the chart above. Wayne County has the largest population, which is why it has consistently received the highest amount of funding and counties like Monroe and St. Clair or more rural with more lower populations and lower funding amounts.

Overall, the chart above show how revenue sharing for counties in Southeastern Michigan (and at a greater level, across the state) has remained stagnant for several years. The stagnation, and loss, of revenue sharing funds directly impacts that services a county provides. According to the Michigan Association of Counties, counties have lost $2.4 billion in revenue sharing funds. Additionally, in 2019, cities, townships and villages received more than $1 billion total in both constitutional and statutory revenue sharing funds and counties received $221 million in statutory funding. We will also look

Fertility Rates in Michigan Continue to Decline

Fertility rates in the United States and in Michigan have been steadily declining. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, since the year 2000 fertility rates in the U.S. peaked at 69.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2007. Since then the rates have continued to fall. Between 2011 and 2016 the fertility rate hovered between 63.2 and 62 before dropping to 60.3 in 2017 and 59.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2018. In Michigan, the fertility rate has consistently been lower than that of the U.S., but it too has been on the decline. Since the year 2000 the fertility rate peaked in 2000 at 63 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Up until 2009 the fertility rate fluctuated between about 62 and 60.5, then in 2009 the rate dropped to 58.8 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Between 2013 and 2016 the fertility rate again increased to about 60 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age  before again dropping to 59.5 in 2017 and 58.5 in 2018. In raw numbers, in 2018 there were 110,293 births in Michigan, the lowest number since 1941.

According to a recent New York Times article, fertility rates tend to decrease with economic downturns. This happened with the Great Depression and then again with the Great Recession in 2008. However, while fertility rates rebounded following the Great Depression this has yet to happen following the recent recession. Stable fertility rates are important as they help ensure there will be a healthy workforce to keep the economy moving and to care for the elderly populations.

Below is a chart detailing the fertility rates for all of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan in 2018, along with the rate for the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit. The only county to have a higher fertility rate than the State was Wayne County. In 2018 the fertility rate for Michigan was 58.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 and for Wayne County the fertility rate was 66.2; the City of Detroit had a fertility rate of 70.2. Washtenaw County had the lowest fertility rate at 40.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. One possibility for the low fertility rate in Washtenaw County is the fact that the county is home to the University of Michigan. With such a high college population, where the typical age is concentrated in the lower 20s, it is quite possible that the fact that fewer women in their 20s are having children contributed to the county’s low fertility rate.

In addition to publishing fertility rate data by county, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also publishes it by race. Below is the data for the year 2018 by county for white women. The fertility rate for white women in Michigan in 2018 was 55.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, and Wayne and St. Clair counties were the only two in the region with higher fertility rates. Wayne County had a fertility rate of 58.7 in 2018 and in St. Clair County the fertility rate for white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.8. White women in the City of Detroit also had a fertility rate higher than the state; Detroit’s fertility rate per 1,000 white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.9.

The fertility rate for black women in 2018 in Michigan was 67.6 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Again, there was a higher fertility rate for black women in Wayne and St. Clair counties than at the state level; those rates were 71 and 70.7, respectively. The City of Detroit also had a higher fertility rate than the state at 69.2. A fertility rate was not available for Livingston County.

It should also be noted that the fertility rate for black women in the State of Michigan and across the counties in Southeastern Michigan was higher than the fertility rates for white women in the region and at the state level.

As fertility rates decline it is also important to understand that there seems to be a shift in the age women are choosing to have children. According to the same New York Times article, at the national level, fertility rates have declined the most among teenage women; the fertility rate for teenagers has declined 70 percent since 2001. Women in their 20s are also having fewer children, despite this age group traditionally having the highest fertility rate. In 2016 it was women in their early 30s who had the highest fertility rate. By 2018, the only age group that experienced an increase in fertility rates was women in their late 30s and early 40s.  Also, according to the article, more than half the women in the U.S. who had children in their 30s had a college degree; this was more than the amount of women in their 20s with children and college degrees. There is a belief that women are waiting longer to have children to ensure their financial stability, career trajectory and that they have enough resources to provide for their children.

Monroe Most Obese County in Southeastern Michigan

The obesity rate in Michigan was at 32.3 percent in 2018, which is the most recent data from the United Health Foundation, which produces an annual federal health survey. This rate, according to the foundation, has been stable for the last several years but Michigan ranks as the 16th most obese state in the nation. At the county level, the most recent obesity data that is available is from 2015, and that data shows that of the seven counties in the region four of them are at or above the state’s obesity rate. Monroe County had the highest obesity rate regionally at 37 percent, followed by Wayne County at 34 percent. Macomb and St. Clair counties both had obesity rates of 32 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest obesity rate at 24 percent.

Obesity can be linked to several factors, including overeating, medications, certain diseases and lack of physical inactivity. Those who are obese are also more likely to have certain diseases, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Of course obesity is not the only factor contributing to these diseases. Below we explore the percentage of people who are physically inactive in Southeastern Michigan and the mortality rates of diseases linked to obesity.

Physical inactivity is one of the contributing factors  to obesity. Presented below is the percentage of residents in each county in Southeastern Michigan who said they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week in 2015. As is shown in the chart below, Monroe County had the highest percentage of physically inactive residents at 27.6 percent; Monroe County also had the highest obesity rate. St. Clair County had the second highest rate of physically inactive residents at 27.4 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of residents who are physically inactive at 14.5 percent. Washtenaw County also had the lowest obesity rate.

With obesity comes several health risks, including coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, mental illnesses (depression, anxiety) and an overall low quality of life. The three charts below show the mortality rates per 100,000 people for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Of course the mortality rates displayed below are not directly produced by obesity. However, note that the counties with higher obesity rates tend to have higher mortality rates for the diseases discussed.

For mortality rates linked to diabetes, St. Clair County had the highest rate at 83.3 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Wayne County at 71 deaths per 100,000 people and then Monroe County at 65.6 diabetes related deaths per 100,000 people. Livingston County had the lowest rate at 45.6 diabetes related deaths per 100,000 people.

Overall, heart disease has a much higher mortality rate than diabetes, and the county with the highest heart disease related mortality rate in 2017 was Wayne County at 257.4 per 100,000 people. Following Wayne County was St. Clair County with a rate at 225.7 deaths per 100,000 people and Macomb County with a heart disease mortality rate of 196.1 deaths per 100,000 people. Washtenaw County had the lowest rate at 151.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Strokes had the lowest mortality rate of the three diseases discussed here. Wayne County had the highest rate at 41.2 deaths per 100,000. Oakland County had the second highest mortality rate from strokes at 37.4 deaths per 100,000, and Washtenaw County had the third highest rate at 34.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Monroe County had the lowest rate at 29 deaths per 100,000 people.

Overall, this post highlights obesity rates in Southeastern Michigan, along with one of the causes of obesity and diseases linked to it. Ways to prevent obesity include:

  1. Being physically active;

2. Being cognizant of both caloric intake and the type of foods making up your diet;

3. Being aware of how your emotional state affects your eating habits and how to ensure that these habits do not become unhealthy.

DIA Seeks Millage Renewal

Throughout the Metro-Detroit region there are multiple millages being levied to support regional entities, most of which were born out of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the economic downturn. When some of these millages were originally levied, the initial intentions expressed to the public were that they were for only a specific amount of time, such as with the Detroit Institute of Authority (DIA). However, the Detroit Zoo for example passed a 0.1 millage in 2008, and then came back to voters in 2016, two years before the 10 year millage was set to expire, and asked for a renewal. The 0.1 millage renewal passed, and this public support for the Detroit Zoo continues to be levied; the cost of the Zoo millage for a home valued at $100,000 ($50,000 taxable value), is $5. We have also seen the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) continuously seek millage renewals and increases, the most recent being a 1 mill renewal for four years that was approved by voters in 2018.

Now, as the end of 2019 nears, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) recently announced it is up against the clock to put millage renewal language on the March 2020 ballot. The 10-year millage was originally approved by voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties in 2012, and it was stated at that time that it was a one time request, allowing the museum time to build up its endowment for long-term financial support of operations, according to news articles of 2012 and present. Now seven years into the one-time millage, DIA officials have announced a 10-year renewal is necessary to continue offering the services the public has come to expect. In order to do this the three Art Authorities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties (which were born out of articles of incorporation crafted and approved by the corresponding Board of Commissioners) must approve the ballot language. Just last week the Wayne County Art Authority approved putting the 0.2 mill renewal on the ballot, Oakland County is expected to debate the potential millage renewal later this month and the Macomb Art Authority will do so on Dec. 3.

As discussions again begin to ramp up over whether another regional millage renewal is necessary, it is important to consider what benefits the current tax dollars levied for the DIA may have created the region. In addition to free general admission for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne residents additional benefits can be covered under three main areas: investment in schools (free field trips with bussing, teacher professional development, and curriculum development), investment in the senior population (free group visits for older adults on Thursdays with free transportation and special programs), and investment in community partnerships (Inside/Out program, partnerships with area non-profits).

The first chart below shows the amount of money invested into the schools in the region by county and by year. In total, between 2013 and 2018 392,231 students in the tri-county region have had access to the school programs now offered by the DIA, with that investment totaling about $4.3 million. Of the three counties the most amount of money has been invested into the Wayne County schools, with that total being about $2.2 million. Wayne County has the highest population of the three counties.  It should also be noted though that investment into these various programs in the counties requires participation from the residents.

When looking at the amount invested in the senior programs since 2013 that total is about $1.7 million with the total number of seniors being reached by these special programs being 32,422. The largest investment with the senior programs since the millage has been in Oakland County with a total of  $725,362 being invested into the senior population.

Finally, the area where the most investment has been made is in the community partnerships area. Between 2013 and 2018 about $5.3 million was invested. The largest investment was in Oakland County at about $2 million. In Wayne County $1.9 million was invested, and in Macomb County about $1.3 million was invested.

It appears a new trend is emerging where millages will be needed to support regional entities and interests (the Zoo, the DIA, transit) along with day-to-day services in some cities and counties. For example, in Detroit there are currently discussions about a March ballot proposal to levy additional funds to move blight removal in the city along at a much faster pace. In Macomb County residents will asked to decide if they want to pay additional taxes in order to build a new jail. So it may be even more important for taxpayers to understand what additional taxes are appearing on their tax bill and what their priorities are. In the coming weeks we will look at the additional taxes residents pay in certain communities throughout the region to shed further light on what tax bills are now looking like.

Detroit Vacancies Decline Over Long-Term, Slow Uptick Recently in Numbers

New information on vacancies in Detroit provides a mixed picture. There were 1,490 fewer vacant Detroit properties of all kinds between September 2018 and September 2019, according to the U.S. Postal Service. However, between June 2019 and September 2019 the number of residential vacancies increased by 61 (discussed below). Overall in the month of September of 2019 there were 82,738 vacant addresses.

Although there was a decrease in the number of vacant addresses, the percentage of vacant addresses in Detroit has remained between 21 and 22 percent since June of 2011. Vacancy rates reached 20 percent in December of 2010. The peak vacancy rate in Detroit, according to U.S. Postal Service data, was in March of 2015 when it was 22.8 percent; at that time it was equivalent to 88,017 vacant addresses.

Looking backward, (we have USPS data back through 2005) the lowest vacancy rate in Detroit was in December of 2005. At that point, the rate was 10.03 percent, and that was equivalent to 38,981 vacant properties. So, overall we witnessed more than a doubling of vacancies with a gradual decline to 82,738 from a peak of 88,017.

When examining only residential vacancy rates that rate was 21.34 percent in September of 2019, which was equivalent to 74,818 vacant residential addresses. The residential vacancy rate between September of 2019 and 2018 decreased by less than 1 percent, and the total number decreased by 2,239 residential addresses. The five-year difference was a decrease of 7,230 residential vacancies. The highest residential vacancy rate was 23.5 percent in March of 2015; the lowest residential vacancy rate was in February of 2008 at 15.8 percent. Following the peak residential vacancy rate in 2015, those numbers have been on the decline.

In addition to these changes, in September of 2019 there was not a change in the number of “no stat” addresses–properties denoted by mail carriers as being either “vacant” or “no-stat.” In September of 2019 the percent of no-stat properties was 6.2 percent.  These no-stat properties are ones that carriers on urban routes mark as vacant once no resident has collected mail for 90 days. Addresses in rural areas that appear to be vacant for 90 days are labeled no-stat, as are addresses for properties that are still under construction. So, urban addresses labeled are those a carrier deems as unlikely to be occupied again any time soon. That is, both areas where property is changing to other uses and areas of severe decline may have no-stat addresses.

The maps below demonstrate both the overall Detroit address vacancy rates (including residential and business vacancy rates) by Census Tract for September 2019 (first map) and the change in vacancy rates between September 2019 and September 2018 (second map). In total, there were about 65 Census Tracts in Detroit with total vacancy rates above 35 percent. The Census Tract with the highest vacancy rate in September of 2019 was located north of I-94, between there and I-96, with a rate of 55.8 percent. There were two large clusters of Census Tracts with vacancy rates above 35 percent, one cluster was located along I-96 south and west of the Davison Freeway, and the other was located on the eastside of the city along Gratiot Avenue.

While most of the Census Tracts in the City experienced a decrease in the number of vacancies from September 2018 to September 2019, there were about 40 tracts scattered all across the city that had an increase. The Census Tract with the highest increase was located on the City’s far west side and there was an increase of 7.2 percent. The tract with the largest vacancy rate decrease was located in Southwest Detroit and there was a decrease of 11.1 percent.

In addition to the U.S. Postal Service tracking vacancy data so does the U.S. Census Bureau. The chart below shows the differences that each agency reports in vacancy rates. The Census Bureau only tracks vacant houses while the U.S. Postal Service tracks residential properties, businesses and total vacancy rates. In the chart below only residential rates are examined. As the data shows, the Census regularly has higher residential vacancy rates as compared to the U.S. Postal Service. The most recent data for the Census data (2017) shows that the City’s residential vacancy rate was 29.2 percent and that was in 2017. The Postal Service’s equivalent rate was 22.4 percent at that time. The Census data is based on a sample of about 72,000 housing units. The U.S. Postal Service data is collected by postal service workers, if a residence is deemed occupied it means it requires mail service.  It is deemed vacant if it does not require mail service. One potential reason for the difference in vacancy rates is the fact that the Census data is based on samples while the U.S. Postal Service relies on postal carrier’s actual observations of the properties.