Ypsi Council Re-Adopts Transit Accord

The Ypsilanti city council has reconsidered and ratified the four-party public transportation agreement intended to be the foundation for a future countywide transportation authority. Under the new authority, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s governance and area of service would be expanded.

The version of the four-party agreement adopted by the Ypsilanti council now matches that which was approved by the Ann Arbor city council the previous day on June 4, 2012. That version, now approved by both bodies, provides for different treatment of a 1% municipal service charge by each city.

Under the agreement, Ann Arbor will apply the 1% charge before forwarding its transit millage revenues to a possible new transportation authority to be formed under Act 196 of 1986. Ypsilanti will not assess the charge, and will forward the full amount of its millage revenues to the Act 196 authority. The dollar amounts for Ypsilanti are significantly smaller. The other two parties to the agreement are Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

The Ypsilanti council had approved the plan on May 15, 2012, but amended it in a way that required the Ann Arbor city council, which had approved an earlier version on March 5, to reconsider the amended version. The Ann Arbor council did that on June 4, 2012, but Ann Arbor did not accept all of the Ypsilanti amendments.

The May 15 amendments by the Ypsilanti city council would have eliminated, for both Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, the collection by each city of the municipal service charge, which would reimburse the city for handling the collection and transmission of money levied for the transportation millage. In Ann Arbor, this is 1% of the annual millage. The tax is 2.5 mills as provided by the Ann Arbor city charter, but it has been reduced by the Headlee Amendment to around 2 mills. In Ypsilanti, the millage is .9789, per the Ypsilanti city charter.

Translated into dollars, the service charge would be roughly $90,000 for Ann Arbor. For Ypsilanti, the amount would be about $3,000.

On May 15, Ypsilanti councilmember Peter Murdock had expressed the reason for the change: “[T]he money should go to the new [transit] authority, not to the two cities, and Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor should both do that.” At the June 5 meeting, Murdock indicated why he now would approve the amended document: “Ypsilanti is not going to have public transportation in the future unless the county plan is adopted.”

By way of background, Ypsilanti has a contractual relationship with the AATA by which the city purchases service from AATA, because Ypsilanti is outside the area supported by the Ann Arbor transit tax. The 0.9789 Ypsilanti millage is used to pay for the purchase of service agreement (POSA).

Falling property values in Ypsilanti will result in the 0.9789 levy generating fewer dollars, as a budget discussion earlier in the Ypsilanti council meeting revealed. Michael Ford, CEO of AATA, took the podium during the budget discussion at the request of mayor Paul Schreiber. Schreiber told Ford that in FY 2013 Ypsilanti would fall $21,000 short in its payment to AATA, and in FY 2014 there would be a projected $75,000 shortfall. “What would AATA do about that shortfall?” Schreiber asked. Ford responded: “We can work with you and we are willing to absorb the $21,000 loss.”

Ford told the Ypsilanti council that he would present the four-party agreement to the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at their meeting on Wednesday, June 6. However, as of late Tuesday night, June 5, the agreement was not yet on the board’s online agenda. An email sent to county commissioners earlier in the day on June 5 from Sarah Pressprich Gryniewicz, AATA’s community outreach coordinator, stated that “Michael Ford would like to come to the Ways and Means session tomorrow to start the process for the BOC [board of commissioners] to consider the documents.” The board’s Ways and Means Committee – of which all commissioners are members – meets immediately prior to the regular board meeting and is where agenda items are given initial consideration.

Update: An email from county administrator Verna McDaniel – circulated to county board members in the early afternoon of June 6 – states: ”Chair, Conan Smith has informed me that the 4-Party Agreement is planned to come before the Board with Commissioner Sizemore’s approval for the July 11th meetings. We have been asked to request Commissioner Rabhi approve a special Working Session prior to that meeting to answer any questions or concerns pertaining to the 4-Party Agreement.”

The fourth party in the four-party agreement – the AATA board – had approved the accord on May 16, 2012, but may now review and revote its approval in light of the amendments made by the two city councils.