Local Road Taxes Help Support Southeastern Michigan Roads

The state of the roads in Michigan are well known to be largely in poor condition, and funding never seems to be at a point to allow for a total overhaul toward long-term improvement. Road funding in Michigan doesn’t come from one dedicated source. Rather, there is federal funding provided by the Federal Highway Administration Highway Trust Fund, state funding provided by state fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, income taxes, additional appropriations decided on by the Legislature, and local funding provided by general tax revenue and additional road millages. This post shows the communities in Southeastern Michigan that have additional road millages to further improve the roads.

According to the data provided by the Michigan Department of Treasury, there are 73 communities in Southeastern Michigan that levy an additional tax to support road funding, along with two counties. These millages are intended to improve road funding. Of all the communities that levy a road millage, the City of Melvindale has the highest road levy at 6.7 mills, followed by the City of Grosse Pointe and the City of St. Clair which both levy 2.5 mills. The City of Sterling Heights levies the fourth highest amount in the region at 2.47.

Freedom Township and St. Clair County levy the lowest amounts at 0.25 mills each. The only other county in the region to levy a road tax is Washtenaw County which has a 0.49 millage.

Another item to note is that there are more townships levy road taxes than cities and villages. This is likely due to the fact that township roads are controlled by county road departments/commissions, meaning more competition for road dollars.

A mill is a $1 tax per $1,000 of assessed taxable value. For example, a homeowner with a house assessed at $200,000 (true value at $400,000) in a city that levies a 2.5 millage would pay an additional $250 in city taxes. Of course, how much money a community receives in total from a road millage will vary depending on the number of homes in a community along with the average home value of a community.

According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy there is a strong correlation between improved road conditions and a road millage. According to the Center, 58 percent of roads in a city without a road millage are in poor condition. And, if a city has a road millage, each mill is correlated with a six-point reduction in the percentage of roads in poor condition. This is not necessarily true for villages, where 47 percent of roads in villages without a road millage are in poor condition. This differentiation could be due to the fact that villages typically have less taxable property value, meaning they would need a higher levy to get the dollars needed for more improvement.

Below is a map of communities in Southeastern Michigan that levy a road tax, along with lists to show what communities are making additional investments into their road infrastructure.

Crops Growth Behind Due to Weather

Knee high by the Fourth of July.

That’s how the old saying goes for farmers to measure the success of their corn crop during the summer months. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 98-100 percent of corn and soybean crops are planted by the end of June. However, this year, because of wet soil conditions, only 90 percent of corn crops had been planted by June 23, 2019 and about 71 percent of soybean crops had been planted. While nearly all of the corn is planted by now, it does not mean it will be ready for harvesting when typically expected. Right now, a lot looks about ankle3 high, instead of knee high.  As for the soybeans, planting is far below the five-year average, and conditions are declining because of the waterlogged soil.

Given that crop production may be down this year, we took a look at the number of acres planted, aggregate yields last year and bushels yielded per acre in 2018 in Southeastern Michigan. This can  provide a better perspective as to how agriculture affects the lives and economy of Michigan residents.

Regionally, Monroe County had the highest number of acres harvested for corn at 50,500 acres, with Washtenaw County coming in second at 35,000 acres. Monroe, St. Clair, Livingston and areas of Macomb and Washtenaw counties are more rural, with more space for farming. Oakland and Wayne counties tend to be more urban and have the lowest number of acres harvested, along with the fewest number of bushels yielded and produced. Following the trend in which county harvested the most amount of corn regionally, Monroe County also produced the most at 8.5 million bushels of corn and it yielded 168.3 bushels per acre. A bushel is an old measure based on a bushel basket. Wayne County produced the lowest number of bushels of corn at 70,000; it yielded 116.7 bushels per acre.  In terms of the most amount of corn yielded in 2018, St. Clair County had the highest yield at 176.5 bushels yielded per acre of corn planted.


When looking at the amount of soybeans harvested in 2018 regionally, Monroe County again had the highest number of acres harvested at 83,500, and St. Clair County had the second highest at 70,200. Wayne County had the lowest number of soybean acres harvested at 3,000 acres. In terms of production, Monroe County produced the highest amount at 3,765,000 bushels; a bushel of soybeans weighs 60 pounds.  St. Clair County produced 3,150,000 bushels of soybeans and Wayne County had the lowest production rate at 118,000 bushels. When looking at the amount of soybeans yielded per acre each county was within close range of the others. Livingston County had the highest yield rate at 47.7 bushels per acre and Washtenaw County had the lowest yield rate at 43.1 bushels per acre. 


While the majority of crops are now planted there are still many farmers worried about the yield for crops that will be harvested and produced. There are also plenty of farmers relying on crop insurance to ensure some kind of income for the year. According to recent MLive article, the extent of crop insurance claims this year is 13 times higher than last year. As we wait to see what the end result of this year’s corn and soybean crop season is, we also wait to see if the weather patterns of this summer will become a pattern in years to come.

PFAS Regulations to Tighten in Michigan

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals (including PFOA and PFOS) found in everything from packaging to cookware. These chemicals are causing environmental and potential health problems, especially here in Michigan. To better track how these chemicals are affecting the environment and public health the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team was created to research, identify, recommend and implement actions to improve the PFAS situation in the State. Part of this research includes testing the waterways and the public water supply. The first map below shows the total PFAS found in treated public water samples throughout the State in 2018. Three counties in Michigan (Washtenaw, Muskegon and Allegan counties) had between 63-78 parts per trillion for PFAS tested in the public water supply. According to the Environmental Protection Agency the lifetime recommended advisory limit is 70 parts per trillion. In Kalamazoo County the amount of PFAS is far higher than the EPA’s recommended intake and any amount found in every other Michigan county. According to the State of Michigan, 5,955 parts per trillion of PFAS was found in Kalamazoo County. It is believed much of this contamination is from old paper mills in the area, a plastics company and a landfill; at least 115 wells and other sources for drinking water were tested.

The second map below shows the total PFAS found in raw water for public water supplies. For this measurement Kalamazoo County was in with the majority of Michigan’s 83 counties where 0-28 parts per trillion of PFAS was found. Of all the counties in the state, Kent County had the highest amount of PFAS found at 140 parts per trillion.  With the exception of the amount of PFAS found in Kalamazoo County’s treated drinking supply, in general, the amount of PFAS found in raw water testing samples was higher than those found in treated public water samples.


Overall, the maps above show that several counties in Michigan have high amounts of PFAS found in public drinking supplies, and in some cases above the EPA lifetime recommendation. As more information about PFAS is discovered that state needs to take actions to prevent further contamination of our water resources by implementing stricter standards. Just recently the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team proposed the lowest parts per trillion thresholds in water supplies in the county. These numbers, which vary depending on the specific PFAS, are still in draft form though and will likely not be formally recommended until October, with enforceable numbers being set by spring of 2020. Once formalized the contaminant levels would be enforceable under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Great Lakes Continue to Rise

Water levels in the Great Lakes continue to rise as the rain continues to fall. According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, each of the Great Lakes had higher average water levels in the month of May in 2019 than the prior years. Each lake had water levels that were almost a foot higher than the previous year. Additionally, as of June 21, 2019 water levels throughout the Great Lakes continued to reach above average levels, increasing well beyond the May 2018 and May 2019 averages. Between May 2019 and June 21, 2019 water levels in Lake Superior have increased an additional 3 inches, which is the lowest increase of the five water basins the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tracks as part of the Great Lakes. Lake Ontario experienced the highest increase between the May 2019 average and the recorded water levels on June 21, 2019; the increase in that time frame was 8 inches. Lake Michigan-Huron has had the second highest increase in the last few weeks at 7 inches.

The charts below further show that as of May, Lake Ontario experienced the highest average increase between May of 2018 and 2019 at about a foot and a half. Lake St. Clair’s average increased the least, but was still up 8.4 inches from the 2018 May average.

Such water levels are a result of above average rainfalls for 2019 and below average evaporation rates. For some perspective, as of June 1, 2019 there had been 1.57 inches of rain during the month, compared to 0.57 inches by the same time in 2018. Additionally, the average temperature for the month of June this year is about 68 degrees when last year the average temperature for June was about 72 degrees.

Weather models predict that cooler temperatures and increased amounts of precipitation will become more of the norm for Michigan, as a result of climate change. Such a long-term shift in the state’s climate not only affects water levels in the Great Lakes, but also farming throughout Michigan. This is a topic we will further explore in an upcoming post.

Birth Rates Continue to Decline in Michigan

In 2017 Kent County had the highest birth rate per 10,000 people in the state of Michigan at 136.5. This means there were 8,684 live births in Kent County in 2017 with a population of 636,376. Wayne County had the second highest birth rate in the state at 131.9 live births per 10,000 people; this equates to 23,257 live births for a population of about 1.7 million. Of the 83 counties in Michigan 38 of them had live birth rates above 100 per 10,000 people in 2017. Additionally, in terms of the total number of live births Wayne County had the highest total with Oakland County having the second highest total at 13,184.

As the second map below shows, most of the state had between 13 and 4,660 live births in 2017. There were 12 counties where the total number of live births was below 100, with Keweenaw County having the lowest number of live births in 2017 at 13.  Keweenaw County is in the Upper Peninsula, and like Keweenaw County several of the other counties in the UP had less than 100 live births in 2017. On the opposite end of the range, there were only five counties in the state that had more than 4,660 live births, those counties being Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Genesee and Kent counties.

onitoring the number of births and birth rates in an area is important because it directly impacts policy and budgeting as it relates to education and health care. In the U.S., and in Michigan, the number of births are dropping. For example, in 2017 in Michigan there was a total of 111,507, which was about 2 percent lower than what it was the previous year. As Michigan’s population ages but birth rates decline some are concerned that long-term this will affect the state’s economy and the talent pool.

Hamtramck Schools Have Highest Percentage of Students Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch

A few weeks ago Drawing Detroit explored how many students are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services by county. With the percentage of students being eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services being a proxy measure of poverty, we wanted to dig deeper into the data to see what areas of each county had the highest and lowest percentage of services eligible for the service. 

Those who are eligible for free or reduced lunch prices are children in households that receive benefits from the Food Assistance Program or Family Independence Program. For example, in 2018, a family of four that has an annual income of about $33,000 or less was eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.

Hamtramck Public Schools may not be the most populated school district in Southeastern Michigan, but it has the highest percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. According to the Michigan Department of Education, out of the 3,300 students enrolled in Hamtramck Public Schools, 3,115 are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. This translates to 94 percent of the school population being eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. In total, there are only seven school districts in the region where 80 percent or more of the students in the district are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. Of those seven districts, four are in Wayne County (Hamtramck Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Highland Park Public Schools and Inkster Public Schools), two are in Macomb County (Mount Clemens Public School District and Van Dyke Public Schools) and one is in Oakland County (Oak Park Public Schools).

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are 14 school districts in the region where 20 percent or less of the student population is eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. Northville Public Schools has the lowest percentage of students eligible at 6.5 percent. In total, of the 7,355 students enrolled in the school district, 483 are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch benefits. Macomb and St. Clair counties are the only two in the region with no school districts with less than 20 percent of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. In St. Clair County, all the school districts have between 20 and 60 percent of students eligible and in Macomb County, majority of the school districts are in that same range. The exception in Macomb County is the Mount Clemens School District and the inner-ring Detroit school districts, such as Van Dyke Public Schools, Warren Consolidated Schools and others that are near the City of Detroit. In the more rural school districts to the west (in Washtenaw and Livingston counties) nearly all the school districts have less than 40 percent of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services.

With majority of the school districts in the region having at least 20 percent or more of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services, this highlights a need for more investment in our children, ensuring they have the resources mentally and physically grow. As noted earlier, this data also relates to the poverty levels in the region and further highlights how it affects our youth. 

Water Rates Vary Due to Location, Use

Water rates throughout Southeastern Michigan vary greatly, despite the fact that most communities in the region receive their water through the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The GLWA was approved by Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties’ Board of Commissioners in October of 2014 and on January 1, 2016 the regional authority became fully operational, ultimately as a result of Detroit’s bankruptcy. The county boards’ approval allowed the authority to form and for the GLWA to lease water and sewer infrastructure from the City of Detroit for 40 years at a cost of $50 million a year. The approval of the GLWA also meant that all Detroit Water and Sewer wholesale customers, with the exception of the City of Detroit (127 in all, 75% of which are in the tri-county area) are now customers of the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The Detroit/GLWA system consists of:

  • 640 miles of large water and sewer pipes
  • Five water treatment facilities
  • One major sewage treatment plant

The map below shows the commodity charge rates for Fiscal Year 2020, as approved by the GLWA. In total, the GLWA represents 127 different communities, not all are shown in the map below though because some receive their services through the smaller water authorities, such as the South Oakland County Water Authority (which is a member of the GLWA and then services communities in that area).   As the map shows, Bruce Township has the highest rate at $75.53 per million cubic feet (MCF). However, majority of the communities in the region that participate in the GLWA have commodity charge rates that range between $4.28 per mcf and $18.53 per mcf. The City of Ecorse has the lowest rate at $4.28 per mcf.

According to the GLWA, the charges vary across communities for a number of reasons. Of course, communities are in charge of their end rates but the GLWA starts with setting their commodity prices by creating a water budget, which is capped at a 4 percent increase each year. This budget is reflective of operating expenses, the cost of infrastructure and other costs. The GLWA then looks at the usage patterns of each community and where it is located in terms of its elevation and distance from a water plant. Location matters because the more electricity that is used to pump water to a community the more a city’s commodity charge will be. So, for example, Bruce Township is in the northern part of Macomb County so transportation is farther. Additionally, it does not have a storage facility (such as a water tower) that would allow it to store water at cheaper rates and distribute to customers. In addition to storage options, cities can also manage their water rates as charged by the GLWA by not exceeding max volume usage during peak hours and conserving.

Economic Indicators: Housing Prices $30K Higher Since 2014

In April of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.7, a decrease from the March unemployment rate of 4.4, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for April of 2018 was 0.2 points higher than what it was in December of 2019 (3.7).

The Detroit rate was 0.8 points lower in April of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the April 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was the same as it was during the same time the previous year ( unemployment rate was 8 both years).



The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for April of 2018 and 2019. In April of 2019 Wayne County and St. Clair County both had the highest unemployment rates at 4.6. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.6. Washtenaw County was also the only county in the region to have a lower unemployment rate in April 2019 than in April 2018. Macomb and St. Clair counties had the highest difference in their unemployment rates between April 2018 and 2018; in that time frame the rates increased by 0.5. The unemployment rate for Wayne County increased by 0.4.



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 $123,370 in February 2019; this was $180 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2019 price was an increase of $5,710 from February of 2018 and an increase of $12,340 from February of 2017, an increase of $19,940 from February of 2016 and increase of  $26,490 from February of 2015 and, finally, an increase of 
$29,270 from February of 2014.

Wayne County has Highest Percentage of Children Owed Child Support

In 2017 Wayne County had the highest percentage of children owed child support in Southeastern Michigan at 26.6 percent. What this means is that among children who should  be receiving child support, there is a percentage in each county who are still owed something. The age of children looked at for this data was 0-19 years of age. Next to Wayne County, St. Clair County had the second highest percentage of children owed child support at 22.2 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children owed child support at 11.9 percent, and Livingston County was at 12.2 percent.

Just as Wayne County had the highest percentage of children owed child support, it also had the highest percentage of children owed child support who had not received any. According to the data, 33.2 percent of Wayne County children who were owed child support in 2017 had not received any. And, while Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children owed child support regionally, it had the second highest percentage of children who had not received any. In 2017, 19 percent of Washtenaw County children who were owed child support did not receive any. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of children who were owed child support but didn’t receive any at 7.3 percent. The difference in the percentage of children owed child support and the percentage who have received none could be dependent on several factors, including the median income and employment rates of that area and the resources a county dedicates to ensuring those who owe child support pay.

Child support plays a vital role in a child’s life by giving him or her additional resources to have access to financial security. Child support helps ensure a child has food, shelter and other daily necessities. Each situation involving child support differs, but in general, if a parent does not have full custody of a child he or she should anticipate paying at least 25 percent of their income for child support.

Wayne County Has Highest Percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch Eligible Students

Access to regular and nutritious meals is important, particularly for children. Having access to breakfast and lunch allows students to be able to focus better, have energy and to grow, both physically and mentally. For this reason, we have adopted programs to deliver free and reduced price lunches to children in difficult circumstances. The percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunches prices thus tracks poverty levels in a school district or county, while at the same time representing an investment in our children.

Those who are eligible for free or reduced lunch prices arechildren in households that receive benefits from the Food Assistance Program or Family Independence Program. For example, in 2018, a family of four that has an annual income of about $33,000 or less was eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. As the map below shows, Wayne County had the highest percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch in 2018, according to data from the 2019 Kids Count. In 2018 64.5 percent of school-aged children in Wayne County were eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 35.5 percent of children living in Wayne County in 2017 (the most recent data) were considered to be living below the poverty level. In 2017 a family of four was considered to be living below the poverty level if the annual household income was $24,600 or less. The county with the second highest percentage of school-aged children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices was Macomb County at 47.6 percent, and St. Clair County was slightly behind with 45.7 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. And, for additional insight, the percentage of children living below the poverty level in 2017 in Macomb County was 17.6 percent, and the percentage of children living below the poverty level in St. Clair County was 19.2 percent.  Regionally, the county with the lowest percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices was Livingston County; 22 percent of students were eligible. The percentage of children living below the poverty level in Livingston County was 7 percent.



While we do know that the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices is a proxy measure for poverty, the percentages for both data sets do not directly mimic one other. Additionally, the income guidelines differ for the overall poverty level and eligibility for free and reduced lunch. Overall though, we do see that areas with higher poverty levels have a higher percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.