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.

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.

Global View: Southeastern Michigan Income Disparities Not So Vast

In Southeastern Michigan the range of median household incomes is vast. In Highland Park the median household income is about $16,000, and only 25 miles away the city of Bloomfield Hills has a median income of about $187,000. There are only three communities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that have a median household income above $152,000, and all three of those communities (Bloomfield Hills, Lake Angelus and Orchard Lake) are located in Oakland County. Conversely, there are about 25 communities in those three counties where the median income is less than $50,000, with most of those communities being located in Wayne County.


While the range of median incomes regionally is immense, the map below further shows just how wide that range is when looking at it from a national perspective. With a median income of about $187,000, the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 90th percentile for median household income nationwide, as does the city of Lake Angelus ($166,000 median household income). Just a mere 25 miles away though, there are five cities with median household incomes that rank in only the 10th percentile nationwide. Those cities are:

  • Highland Park: $15,699
    • Ecorse: $23,556
    • Hamtramck: $24,369
    • Royal Oak Township: $26,406
    • Detroit: $27,838

A deeper look at the map below shows that most of Oakland County has households with median incomes in at least the 50th percentile nationwide. Macomb and Wayne counties are primarily made up of communities with median household incomes in the 30th and 40th percentiles nationwide.

When examining median household incomes in Southeastern Michigan through a global lens, the gap between communities like Highland Park and Bloomfield Hills does shrink. As shown in the map below, the city of Highland Park ranks in the 63rd global percentile for median household incomes and the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 99th percentile. What this map shows is that on a global level, even our communities with the lowest median household incomes fare far better than many communities throughout the world.

According to the Washington Post, a $59,000 a year income ranks in the 40th national percentile but in the 91st percentile globally. About 70 percent of the U.S. population falls in the global middle class, which the Washington Post defines as being able to afford the basics (food, clothing and shelter) while also having some disposable income.

Southeastern Michigan County Roads Far Below Average

In 2018 not one county in Southeastern Michigan had at least 25 percent of its road pavement deemed to be in “good” condition, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG). Rather, the pendulum swung the other way, with each county having at least 33 percent of its road pavement deemed to be in “poor” condition.

The ratings-“good,” “fair,” and “poor”-are determined according to the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) system, which are linked to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council’s best practices. For roads to be deemed in “good” condition they must be new, or like new, and only require regular maintenance. Roads that are considered “fair” have some signs of aging and require preventative maintenance such as crack sealing and overlay, which will extend the life of the road. “Poor” condition roads require some type of rehabilitation or reconstruction and are near the end of their life.

Regionally, St. Clair County has the largest percentage of road pavement deemed to be in “poor” condition at 54 percent. Oakland County has the next largest percentage of road pavement in “poor” condition at 49 percent. Monroe County has the lowest percentage of roads deemed to be in “poor” condition at 33 percent.

With Monroe County having the lowest percentage of roads in “poor” condition it also has the highest percentage of roads in “good” condition at 36 percent. Wayne County has the lowest percentage of roads in “good” condition at 15 percent. In addition to Wayne, Oakland and St. Clair counties have less than 20 percent of its road pavement in “good” condition (16 and 17 percent, respectively).


In the “fair” condition category, Wayne County has the highest percentage of roads in that condition at 39 percent. Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of “fair” condition roads at 28 percent.

By now, it is common knowledge that Michigan’s roads need attention, and the funding to ensure the reconstruction and general maintenance of the roads needs to change from its current structure. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently proposed a 45 cent fuel tax hike, which is said to increase state road funding by $2.5 billion by 2021. Under this plan, the distribution of road funds (which is determined by Public Act 51) would slightly differ. Each county would still receive its normal share of the state’s current 26.3 cent per-gallon gas tax, but the additional gas tax increase would be distributed based on the use of roadways.  Currently in Michigan, counties receive 56 percent of their funding from vehicle fees, 24 percent based on the miles of county roads and the remaining 20 percent is based on other factors.

Whether Whitmer’s plan will be adopted remains in the air, but there seems to be general agreement that more funding is needed to fix the roads.

Livingston County has Highest Rate of Vaccine Waivers in Southeastern Michigan

As of April 5, 2019 there were 39 confirmed cases of measles in Michigan. According to media reports, those confirmed to have measles range in age from under a year old to 63 years of age, and at least three of the individuals with measles obtained both doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

According to the Michigan Public Health Code, there are a variety of vaccines, like the MMR vaccine, that students must obtain before entering kindergarten. Students entering school also have the option to receive a vaccine waiver though. In Michigan, like every other state in the U.S., vaccine waivers are given for religious reasons. Additionally, Michigan also allows exemptions for philosophical reasons. In order to opt children out of vaccination, parents are required to receive education on the benefits of vaccination and the risks that come when an individual isn’t vaccinated.

Regionally, Livingston County had the highest percentage of school-aged children with immunization waivers at 7.9 percent. St. Clair County had the next highest percentage of children with immunization waivers at 5.5 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of immunization waivers at 3 percent.



Across the State of Michigan the percentage of children receiving vaccines began to drop in 2013, and while there was a slight uptick between 2016 and 2017 (3.9% to 4.2% for kindergartners) there has still been an overall decrease since 2010. It was in 2010 that additional vaccine requirements were added by the state, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Overall, public health officials said the anti-vaccine movement is growing, in large part due to the ability social media has to spread information, and misinformation.

To learn more about the immunization of your child’s school, click here.  

Number of Females Elected in Michigan Increases

In November of 2018 Michigan voters cast ballots for a record number of females to serve as elected officials. The office of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state are now all filled by females. In addition, there was an increase of females elected to serve in the House of Representatives and the State Senate. Also, two female were elected to the State Supreme Court, one being an incumbent and the other a newcomer.

During the previous term in the State Senate, four females served in the 39 seats. But, in 2018 that number increased to 11 females serving in the 39 State Senate districts, meaning 28 percent of those elected to the State Senate in 2018 were women. As the map below shows there are no females serving in the State Senate for any district north of the Grand Rapids area. Additionally, most of the females elected to serve for the 2019 term represent areas in Southeastern Michigan.

In the House of Representatives the number of females elected to serve increased from 33 in the last term to 41 in the 2019 term. In total, there are 110 districts in the House of Representatives, 37 percent of which are represented by females. Unlike in the State Senate, females serve in districts throughout the state, including in the northern part of the lower peninsula and in the upper peninsula.

On the local level in Southeastern Michigan, representation of females on County Board of Commissioners varies throughout the region. In St. Clair County no women serve on the Board of Commissioners. In Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties each Board of Commissioners has more 50 percent or more female representation. Wayne County has the highest female representation on its Board at 60 percent (9 of 15 Commissioners).

Overall, the number of females represented in elected positions in Michigan increased following the 2018 election. At least part of that was a result of more women running for elected positions.

 

Opioid Deaths in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Rise

In 2017, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, both Macomb and Wayne counties had the highest rate of opioid related deaths per 10,000 residents. Both counties had an opioid related death rate of 3.27. In our region, Oakland County had the lowest opioid related death rate in 2017 at 0.38.

When examining the sheer total of opioid related deaths between 2012 and 2017 we see that Wayne County not only had the highest total number of deaths each year, but also the largest increase. Between 2012 and 2017 Wayne County had an increase of 335 in the number of opioid related deaths. Macomb County had the second highest total number of opioid related deaths each year in the region, growing from 132 in 2012 to 285 in 2017. Macomb and Wayne counties were the only two in the region with opioid deaths totaling more than 100 each year.

Just last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood inside a Macomb County fire and rescue building to report that the State of Michigan was a recipient of a $10 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to combat the opioid crisis. Through this grant, and various partnerships, high-impact, state-based interventions with a focus on identifying novel approaches to address gaps in current treatment and prevention programs,” will occur. Programs already in place in Michigan to combat the opioid crisis include expanding the distribution of naloxone (a drug used to counter-act opioid overdoses) into the community, a Michigan State Police program that allows victims of addiction to walk into any MSP post and get help without fear of being criminally charged and providing access to real-time information on prescription data and analytics of controlled substances for prescribers and pharmacists.

Metro-Detroit Economic Indicators

In December of 2018 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 4.1, an increase from the November unemployment rate of 3.4, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for December of 2017 was 0.6 points below what it was in December of 2018 (4.7). Since April of 2018 the data shows that the unemployment rate for the State essentially leveled out around 4, except when it dropped to 3.4 in November.

The Detroit rate was 0.5 points higher in December of 2018 from the previous month. Also, the December 2018 unemployment rate for Detroit was 0.1 points lower than what it was in December of 2017.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for December of 2017 and 2018. In December of 2018 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.9, with St. Clair County having the second highest regional unemployment rate 4.7. Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties were the only three in the region with unemployment rates below 4 in December of 2018. The unemployment rate for Livingston County was 3.3, the unemployment rate for Oakland County was 3.3 and the unemployment rate for Washtenaw County was 3.1.

When comparing 2017 and 2018, Monroe, Washtenaw and Wayne counties were the only three in the region to experience a decrease in unemployment. Wayne County had the largest decrease at 0.9 points. Livingston, Macomb and St. Clair counties all experienced an increase from 2017 to 2019. Livingston County had the largest increase at 0.2.

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 $123,550 in December 2018; this was $490 lower than the average family dwelling price in November. The December 2018 price was an increase of $6,210 from December of 2017 and an increase of $13,430 from December of 2016, an increase of $19,780 from December of 2016 and increase of $26,570 from December of 2014.

Communities Continue to Opt Out of Michigan Recreational Marijuana

In November of 2018 the State of Michigan legalized recreational marijuana. And, while recreational marijuana facilities have not made their way into any municipality yet (the state has until November 2019 to work out logistics to allow such facilities to operate), several municipalities have already opted out of allowing them. Under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, every municipality is considered to be “in,” or to allow medical marijuana facilities, unless the elected body of a municipality votes to opt out through an ordinance or resolution (an ordinance is preferred for legal matters). According to the Michigan Department of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, 48 municipalities in Southeastern Michigan have opted out, with the city of Monroe being the first in the state. Even though almost 50 municipalities in Southeastern Michigan, more than 60 in the state of Michigan, have opted out of allowing recreational marijuana, the ordinances that allowed them to opt out can be changed, allowing them to opt back in. As the map below shows, the highest concentration of opt out communities in Southeastern Michigan is in northern Macomb and St. Clair counties. In that area alone there are 12 communities that have already opted out of allowing recreational marijuana facilities. Wayne County has the highest total number of opt out communities at the county level at 13; Macomb County has the second highest number at 10.

Reasons why municipalities have opted out include wanting to wait to see how the state will regulate recreational marijuana facilities, wanting to further amend their own zoning regulations for such facilities and not wanting such facilities within the boundaries of their municipality at all.