As a result of Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority board action, Ypsilanti Township will become a member of the AAATA – assuming the move is also approved by the Ann Arbor city council, as well as other involved parties. The AAATA board resolution, which approves new articles of incorporation for the transportation authority, was passed unanimously at its Sept. 26, 2013 meeting.
Adding Ypsilanti Township would expand the AAATA board from nine to 10 members. The additional seat would be appointed by the supervisor of Ypsilanti Township – an elected position held currently by Brenda Stumbo – with the approval of the township board.
If the Ann Arbor city council does not object, this would be the second expansion of the AAATA board this year. The item is expected to be on the Ann Arbor city council’s Oct. 21 agenda. The earlier expansion was given final approval by the AAATA board at its June 20, 2013 meeting. That’s when the city of Ypsilanti was admitted as a member of the AAATA and its board was increased from seven to nine members, one of whom is appointed by the city of Ypsilanti.
Ann Arbor’s additional board seat on the AAATA was filled when the Ann Arbor city council appointed Jack Bernard. Bernard is a lecturer in the University of Michigan law school and an attorney with UM’s office of the vice president and general counsel. He is also currently chair of the university’s council for disability concerns. The city of Ypsilanti’s seat was filled with Gillian Ream Gainsley. Ream Gainsley is communications and development director at the Ypsilanti District Library.
The “resolved” clause of the AAATA board’s Sept. 26 resolution makes the approval of the revised articles of incorporation for the AAATA contingent on approval from the city of Ann Arbor and other parties [emphasis added]:
… approves Amendment 3 of the Articles of Incorporation of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, in the form attached hereto as Exhibit A, except that, in the event that Ypsilanti Township, or the City of Ypsilanti, or the City of Ann Arbor declines to approve said Articles as described above, the AAATA Board directs staff to reconvene those parties to reconcile any differences relative to the Articles and to bring a new draft to the AAATA Board and all other parties. [.pdf of AAATA complete resolution on admission of Ypsilanti Township as a member]
The sequence of events leading to the possible admission of Ypsilanti Township as a member of the transit authority would be slightly different from that leading to the admission of the city of Ypsilanti. The initial resolution adopted by the AATA board on the admission of the city of Ypsilanti was simply an acknowledgment of the request. The first formal action on approval of the amended articles of incorporation – which included the city of Ypsilanti – was taken by the Ann Arbor city council.
However, the resolution considered and approved by the AAATA board on Sept. 26, 2013 already authorizes the amended articles of incorporation by the AAATA, partly contingent on the approval of the amended articles by the city of Ann Arbor. A timeline overview:
- April 19, 2013: Ypsilanti city councilmember Pete Murdock addresses the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board during its regular meeting to alert the AATA to the probable request by the city of Ypsilanti to join the AATA as a member.
- April 23, 2013: Ypsilanti city council passes resolution requesting admission as a member of the AATA.
- May 16, 2013: AATA board approves resolution acknowledging city of Ypsilanti’s request to join AATA.
- June 3, 2013: Ann Arbor city council approves change to articles of incorporation, admitting city of Ypsilanti as a member of AATA and increasing board membership from seven to nine members, with one of the additional board seats to be appointed by the city of Ypsilanti.
- June 18, 2013: Ypsilanti city council approves amended articles of incorporation for AATA.
- June 20, 2013: AATA board approves resolution formally admitting city of Ypsilanti as a member of the board, ratifying articles of incorporation, including a name change to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
- Sept. 9, 2013: Ypsilanti Township board passes resolution requesting membership in AAATA.
- Sept. 23, 2013: Ypsilanti Township board passes resolution approving amended articles of incorporation with membership for Ypsilanti Township.
- Sept. 26, 2013: AAATA board approves amended articles of incorporation with membership for Ypsilanti Township, contingent on concurrence from other parties.
- Oct. 15, 2013: Planned city of Ypsilanti city council agenda item on amended articles with membership for Ypsilanti Township.
- Oct. 21, 2013: Planned city of Ann Arbor city council item on amended articles with membership for Ypsilanti Township.
Historically, other jurisdictions – the city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township, and Superior Township – have obtained some transit services from the AAATA through purchase of service agreements (POSAs). They have used general fund money authorized by the governing boards to pay the AAATA for that service. In November 2010, however, voters in the city of Ypsilanti approved a dedicated transit millage by a roughly 3:1 margin.
So the city of Ypsilanti has used the proceeds of that 0.987 mill tax to pay toward its POSA agreement. Now that the city of Ypsilanti is a member of the AAATA, the revenue from that 0.987 mill tax isn’t recorded under the POSA line item in the AAATA’s budget, but rather under the line item for local, millage-generated revenues.
The expansion of AAATA one jurisdiction at a time comes in the context of a demised attempt in 2012 to expand the AATA to all of Washtenaw County in one step. Since then, work has continued among a smaller cluster of communities geographically closer to Ann Arbor – to expand and increase the frequency of service and to establish reliable funding for that improved service.
The AAATA could, with voter approval, levy a uniform property tax on the entire geographic area of its membership – but the AAATA has historically not done that. Rather, the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti have dedicated transit millages, which are levied by the cities and transmitted to the AAATA.
One possibility for funding improved transportation services in the Ann Arbor area is through an additional tax levied by the AAATA. The amount of the millage that would be required to pay for the increased services is estimated at around 0.7 mills. In the event that the AAATA were to win voter approval of a 0.7 mill transit tax – a request that might be put on the ballot in May 2014 – the city of Ypsilanti’s existing millage would remain in place, as would that of the city of Ann Arbor. The 0.7 mill tax would need approval among a majority of voters in the geographic area of member jurisdictions – which would include the two cities (Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti) as well as Ypsilanti Township, if it is admitted as a member.
Ann Arbor’s city transportation tax is levied at the rate of 2.053 mills, and currently generates $9,565,000 annually, according to AAATA. The 0.7 mill additional tax would generate $3,230,007 in additional revenue in the city of Ann Arbor for a total Ann Arbor local contribution of more than $12.7 million. According to AAATA, Ypsilanti’s dedicated millage generates $274,000, which is less than its POSA agreement called for last year. The 0.7 mill tax would generate around $189,785 in additional revenue in the city of Ypsilanti, for a total contribution in the city of Ypsilanti of around $464,000.
Ypsilanti Township pays $329,294 annually for its POSA agreement. If a 0.7 mill tax were approved, that would generate around $707,969 in the township. Based on the amount of expanded services that the township would receive, the township contribution would be defined as just that $707,969.
The proposed expansion of service does not depend on the nascent regional transit authority (RTA) – a four-county authority for southeastern Michigan, which includes the city of Detroit and the counties of Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb. The RTA was established in late 2012 in a lame duck session of the Michigan legislature. According to the AAATA’s Sept. 26 informational packet, the RTA has so far spent just $98 of the $500,000 in the budget that was initially allocated to it. The RTA could ask for voter approval of a property tax or a vehicle registration fee to generate transit funding.
This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library at 343 S. Fifth Ave., where the AAATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]