A vote by the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority has formally added the city of Ypsilanti as a member municipality of the transportation authority. As part of the move, the name of the organization has been changed to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
With the change to the articles of incorporation, Ypsilanti will also have the right to appoint a member of the board – which is being expanded from seven to nine members. The city councils of the two cities had already approved the change. The Ann Arbor city council voted on June 3, 2013 to approve the change in governance, while the Ypsilanti city council took its vote on June 18. Both councils voted unanimously to support the move. The AATA board took the final vote at its June 20 meeting. [.pdf of new AAATA articles of incorporation] [.pdf of old AATA articles of incorporation]
At the AATA board meeting as CEO Michael Ford asked board members for their support, he said: “It’s time for us to take the reins.”
Ypsilanti mayor Paul Schreiber, responding to an emailed inquiry from The Chronicle, indicated that he hoped the Ypsilanti appointment to the board could be confirmed by the council by late July or mid-August.
While the change to the articles will affect the governance of the AAATA, the goal of the governance change is to provide a way to generate additional funding for transportation. The AAATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – something the AATA does not currently do. The cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti currently levy their own millages, which are transmitted to the AATA. However, Ypsilanti is currently at its 20-mill state constitutional limit. A millage levied by the AAATA would not count against that 20-mill cap.
Based on information provided to Ann Arbor city council members for their June 3 meeting, the local share of Ypsilanti’s transportation services – the part for which Ypsilanti is responsible – would come to $325,983 for FY 2014. Ypsilanti’s dedicated millage, which is levied at a rate of 0.9789 mills, generated about $308,000 in FY 2012. So there’s some interest in establishing an additional funding source, just to maintain existing levels of service.
However, current discussions indicate that the intent is to increase levels of service – both frequency and the hours of operation – within the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti city boundaries. The additional amount of local funding for the planned increases in service would be the equivalent of around 0.6-0.7 mills. One mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value of a property.
An AAATA millage proposal would require voter approval. There’s an outside chance for the AAATA to place a millage on the November 2013 ballot, but that decision would need to be made by late August. [Ballot language needs to be certified to the county clerk by Aug. 27, 2013]. The practicalities of mounting a successful millage campaign mean that a decision to make a millage request would likely need to come sooner than late August, however.
On a possible millage question, AATA staff and board members are currently having “feeler” discussions with some members of the community who have strong interests in transportation.
The change in the articles of incorporation also results in a name change – to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA). Customary pronunciation of the current name is to sound out each letter: A-A-T-A. One possibility that’s been suggested is to pronounce the new letter sequence Triple-A-T-A. Another possibility is A-3-T-A.
Ypsilanti’s inclusion in the AAATA came in the context of a demised attempt in 2012 to expand the AATA to all of Washtenaw County. Since then, conversations have continued among a smaller cluster of communities geographically closer to Ann Arbor. The next such meeting is scheduled for June 27 at Pittsfield Township hall, starting at 4 p.m. [Previous Chronicle coverage: "Ypsi Waits at Bus Stop, Other Riders Unclear."]
This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]