The City of Westland incurs costs for providing and maintaining street lights throughout the city. This includes ongoing energy costs (paid to DTE Energy) and the maintenance of those lights (bulb replacement, repairs/replacement of broken fixtures, etc.). To pay for this, the City of Westland collects a special assessment from property owners. This will be included on the winter tax bills for the next 10 years.
How is my special assessment cost being calculated?
There are two types of street lights in Westland. The first group are major road lights. These are lights on the main thoroughfares. Everyone uses these main roads in their daily activities, to bring customers to their business or employees to their jobs. Because everyone benefits, the cost of these major road lights are paid by every property owner, including residential, commercial and industrial, based on the square foot size of their parcel.
The second group are local, or subdivision lights. These lights are inside of subdivisions, or neighborhoods, and primarily benefit the property owners directly in that area. These costs are assessed equally to the residents in that neighborhood area.
How are the overall costs of providing street lights calculated each year?
The energy costs are based on DTE Energy electric rates approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. DTE provides us with estimates of the cost of operating each light, based on the type of fixture and wattage. Maintenance funds are needed for required repairs and would include replacement of damaged poles, broken fixtures, bulbs, etc.
What is the benefit of street lighting?
Street lights provide safety, security and wellbeing to all Westland property owners.
Is this a new special assessment?
No. This is the renewal of an existing assessment that has been in effect for more than 25 years.
If this isn’t a new assessment, why haven’t I paid it before?
The methodology being employed has changed. All properties in the City were subject to this assessment previously, however, approximately 8,000 parcels were previously assigned an assessment of $0. The benefit to the City’s property owners has not changed, only the methodology for assigning the cost has changed.
Why was this methodology chosen?
There are many different methods that can be used to allocate costs for special assessments. All are efforts to assign costs based on the relative benefit received. We believe this method allocates costs most equitably to all property owners, based on the benefit they receive. Other allocation methods may result in substantially different assessments on a per parcel basis, however, the total amount of street lighting costs being allocated city‐wide would not change.
Has the City worked with DTE to lower street lighting costs?
Yes. The City is working closely with DTE to look for opportunities to lower costs and conserve energy. One of the best examples of this is the current project to convert most streetlights from mercury vapor fixtures to LED. The LED fixtures will consume less energy than the old ones. We continually work with DTE to maximize energy rebates and operational formats that will keep energy use low. It is expected that lower energy use will offset some of the future DTE rate increases.
How long will I have to pay this assessment?
This new assessment will be in effect for 10 years. After that time, the costs and service will be evaluated again and this process will be repeated and a new assessment roll will be created.
Why did the methodology change?
With the use of the new geographic mapping technology, we have not only been able to more precisely calculate the assessments going forward, but to evaluate the assessments previously assigned. We were able to identify areas where assessments had not been applied consistently. This includes areas where street lights exist, but there was no assessment. There were areas in which taxpayers receive a similar benefit, but were charged significantly different rates. In evaluating the best method, our goal was to treat all taxpayers equitably. This new methodology allows us to be precise and equitable in calculating each assessment.
Who pays for the parking lot lights at the various City owned properties (City Hall, Fire Stations, Police Station, etc.)?
Those costs are paid by the City and are part of the general operating budget. Those costs are not included in the street light costs being assessed to property owners.
Are street lighting assessments deductible on your income tax return?
No--street lighting charges are special assessments and are generally NOT deductible. Please consult your tax advisor to determine your personal tax situation.
What if I don’t agree with my assessment?
We urge you to attend the public hearing to understand how your assessment was calculated. You are required to protest, or make your opinion known, at the public hearing. After that, a protest must be filed with the Michigan Tax Tribunal within 30 days of the special assessment confirmation.
What happens to the funds collected from the assessment?
The assessment cost will be shown on the winter tax bill. Monies collected are placed in a special fund for operation of the lighting system and cannot be used for any other purpose.
Who is being assessed for street lighting services? Does every taxpayer have to pay their share of these costs?
Yes, every City of Westland property owner will receive an assessment. The only properties not paying this cost are the following, which are exempt by state law from paying all property related assessments:
State and Federal government owned properties
County, School & City owned properties used for a public purpose
Tribal lands of Native Americans
Can my annual assessment amount change?
Yes. Many factors impact the cost of providing street lighting. The largest costs are for energy and maintenance of the street lights and those rates are set by the Michigan Public Service Commission. We have no control over that pricing. However, the City is undergoing a conversion of most streetlights from mercury vapor fixtures to LED. The LED fixtures will consume less energy than the old ones. It is expected that the lower energy use will offset some of the future cost increases. The costs will be reviewed and adjusted annually throughout the assessment period.
When does the new special assessment begin?
The assessment amounts will appear on the winter tax bill. The first such new assessment will be on the December 2016 tax bill.
In person at City Hall from September 9, 2016 to September 29, 2016during the normal business hours of 9:00a-5:00p.
At the public hearing on September 29, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. (The City Assessor will also be available from 5:00 to 7:00 to assist with reviewing the roll)
How much is my assessment going to cost?
The special assessment rolls are available for review at City Hall during business hours, on the City of Westland website, and at the public hearing. Each taxpayer will also receive a letter showing their current assessment, proposed assessment and the change in cost. After the new assessment is set, a maximum increase of 5% per year is proposed. After the first year, there will never be an increase greater than 5% per year.
What is the difference between a major and local street?
Major streets are those roads that are main thoroughfares running throughout the City. These streets connect destinations within, and provide the entry to and exit from, the City.
Local, or subdivision, streets are those that run inside of subdivisions or neighborhoods. These streets may have limited access points at the entrances of neighborhoods. The use of these streets is primarily for travel to and from residences and would not generally be accessed otherwise.
Why are the special assessment amounts changing?
A special assessment only lasts for a certain period of time before it expires. The current assessment expires this year. For the City to continue to pay for the street lighting costs, we need to renew the special assessment.
Since the last assessment was created, geographic mapping technology has improved significantly. We can now work with DTE to identify the type, location, and cost of each street light throughout the City. This helps us to be much more specific in calculating the amounts owed by each property owner. In the past, some properties were not charged a street lighting assessment. However, because all property owners benefit from major road street lights, all properties are being assessed a portion of the cost in this latest roll.