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Village of Richland Newsletters
Spring 2013 Newsletter
Winter 2013 Newsletter

What Do We Get for Our Village Taxes?

2013-2014 Budget

By Robert Brinkerhoff

 

Richland residents sometimes wonder where the hard-earned money they pay in taxes goes, and may question whether having a village that charges taxes is worth it. All of us on the Village Council are also taxpayers; we also have to watch our family budgets, so we sympathize with these questions.

 

So: What do we get for our tax dollars? The list of services and benefits is long; here are some highlights.

  • Police protection – recently expanded to be nearly around-the-clock, thanks to a special grant the village applied for and received. This visible and near-continuous police presence keeps our village safe from the crime and speeding that plague many parts of the surrounding area. Going away for a weekend or longer? A simple call to the police department will assure that a watchful eye is kept on your property until your return. We also get immediate response to calls. Not so in the outlying county, where they may wait long minutes or even hours as an understaffed sheriff’s department tries to patrol the huge county area.
  • As a village, we receive state revenue sharing that lets us keep our village roads in good shape, and develop improvements such as walking paths and sidewalks. Without this autonomy and our own dedicated streets budget, we would be low on the county’s priority list for re-paving and maintenance.
  • Sidewalks: Our long-range plan calls for Richland to be a completely walkable village, where all houses and business are accessible by foot or bike path. We build and maintain – and plow – all of our own sidewalks, one of the few places to live in the Kalamazoo area where you are assured of a safe and dedicated footpath.
  • Snowplowing: The village owns and operates its own snowplows for both streets and sidewalks. This lets us respond immediately when snow falls, and assure that all streets and sidewalks are clear each morning after a snowfall. County residents on the many secondary roads have to wait, sometimes a long time.
  • Streetlights, storm drains, street maintenance keep our village streets safely lit, passable in bad weather, and constantly upgraded.
  • Tree planting and maintenance: Our village makes a significant investment in new plantings and maintenance that assure us of beautiful and shady streets. Richland regularly earns national Tree City recognition, and is one of the smallest municipalities in the nation to receive this award.
  • Continuing leaf pickup through the Fall, brush pickup in the Spring, and an annual trash and junk pickup.
  • Planning and zoning: Our village is blessed, thanks to the action of the village council over thirty years ago, with a thorough and thoughtful long-range plan. The Master Plan was updated in 2012. This lets us keep rigorous planning and zoning control inside the village limits, and assures us that development is tasteful and thoughtfully managed, keeping all of our property values at their highest possible levels.
  • Immediate response to storm damage and other emergencies. A few years ago on July 3rd, for example, our village was hit hard by a powerful storm that devastated many areas. Our village crew started working the night of the storm, worked through the night and the next morning, and had the village cleaned up and ready for the popular run and annual parade.
  • Several dozen flower planters (prepared in conjunction with our village business association) that beautify the village. Our village service workers keep all these planters and trees watered and maintained.

 

Do all of these things matter the same to everyone? Of course not. Some of us may be gone during the worst of the winter and not really need snowplowing. Or maybe we don’t have a lot of leaves to rake up and dispose of. But while each service or benefit may be valued differently by each of us, these services together make up the whole village that is an asset to all of us. It is the availability of these services and the independent governing capability of Richland Village that make it uniquely valuable as a place to live. Take way these services and the village government, and quality of life and property values start a long downward spiral.

 

In short, Richland Village has long been one of the most desirable places to live in the Kalamazoo area. This enviable reputation and safe and clean village environment keeps our property values high, and affords our residents a quality of life not available in many areas. Our taxes enable us our autonomous village status and to keep the village this way.

Just consider this example of village action. About 20 years ago, the state highway department planned to widen Gull Road and expand the highway to four lanes, running straight through the village park, which was to be destroyed and removed in the process. Our village council – supported by tax dollars, fought long and hard to protect the village, eventually applying for and winning national Historic Register designation, saving the park, and protecting it forever from destruction. Imagine the devastating blow to our village quality of life had the DOT had its way.

 

Anyone can sympathize with not wanting to pay money needlessly, and especially in hard times, taxes are not an easy burden. But the overall benefit of having Richland incorporated as a village is that we get to invest in our community and make it one of the most desirable places to live in the Kalamazoo area. Without our tax revenues, we would be just another crossroads and property values would decline, along with our quality of life. Many examples abound, perhaps easy to overlook in the pressure and haste of daily life. The actions of the Village council, for example, assured us that we would have the wonderful new Harding’s market in the heart of our village; we also were able to be sure that the MacDonald’s restaurant would be specially designed and situated to blend in with the village architecture and feel.

 

Richland Village is a unique and wonderful place to live. The generous support of our residents and their deeply committed volunteer spirit will keep it that way for us, our children, and the generations to come.