Chart describing Brighton's fiscal reality of structural deficit and the capped growth on taxable value
It may be hard to imagine in a community as vibrant and beloved as ours, but the City of Brighton is in a difficult financial spot due to structural deficits. The loss of $3 million over the past 15 years in revenue sharing from the State, the shrinking statewide road funding assistance, a 25% decrease in taxable value since 2007, legacy costs, and a significant backlog of needed capital investments all combine to form a challenging fiscal outlook.
At the City Council Study Session on September 21, City staff and Council discussed the City’s decreased revenues and growing capital expenditures. For a City, capital needs include the infrastructure that our residents use daily and create a safe community: major and local roads, sidewalks, public facilities, equipment, and more. When these sorts of community assets are not funded for maintenance and replacement, the costs become extremely high. The City of Brighton’s roads are scored 48 out of 100, meaning that they have an overall rating of “poor”. One doesn’t have to go far in the City of Brighton to see this firsthand – our roads are in rough shape. If sizeable investments are not made, Brighton’s roads will continue to decline and the safety of our community will be compromised.
In response to this reality, staff presented Council with a number of options to fill the City’s structural financial gap. Options include a “Headlee Override,” which would allow the City to capture the millage rate permitted in our City’s charter. Over the past few decades, the City’s ability to collect the permitted 20 mills has diminished to 15.27. Combined with a decrease in taxable value, the average Brighton taxpayer is paying only 74% of what they were paying in City taxes in 2007 though property values are equalizing to pre-recession levels. A Headlee Override would allow the voters to decide whether or not to restore the previously approved millage rate. The City Council also discussed a special assessment for police services. This special assessment would protect the quality of the Brighton Police Department and level of service, by providing our police a direct and dedicated funding source from the community.
The City’s fiscal challenges are years in the making. Allowing this capital disinvestment to continue puts the safety and quality of our neighborhoods and community at risk. City Council will continue considering these options and others. We will be discussing our fiscal outlook further at future study sessions. We will continue to keep the community informed as discussions progress.