Move is to match real costs
‘It really is minimal,’ says assistant manager
by BETH ALTENA
Because Consumers Energy rates now rise so regularly and by larger amounts than in years past, Plainfield Township has been unable to match residential payment for street lighting to the residential districts who should be paying for their own lights. The difference, about $50,000 a year, has been coming out of the township’s General Fund, a luxury the township can no longer afford, according to Plainfield Township Manager Robert Homan. He spoke to the board and additional township staff at a special meeting held Monday, August 29.
In response to the difference between costs and collections, the township has restructured lighting assessment districts from over 200 down to 13 and will increase lighting assessment rates by 35 percent across the board to catch up residential payment to real costs of paying for residential street lighting.
“There is no more equitable way to do this,” said Homan.
Homan said in past years the cost of operating a streetlight rose about every 10 years, and by not very much. It was then pretty easy to adjust what residents paid for the lighting in their neighborhood. Around 2005 increases had risen to about every year and it became very difficult to adjust the many districts according to cost increases.
According to Homan, residents pay for street lighting in their neighborhoods according to districts scattered throughout the township. Some of the districts were created in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s for which there are no computer records and sometimes are recorded in language that is inconsistent with wording used in lighting assessment documents the township uses today. The township response was to recreate the districts into larger sections and to make all wording in assessment language consistent.
Not all residents will be affected. Those with no residential streetlights should not be and won’t be paying the assessment. The township identified 6,100 parcels that are paying for street lighting. In addition, the research turned up about 300 parcels that should have been paying but have not, possibly due to lot splits. They also identified some landlocked parcels with no lighting that should not have been paying the assessment but have been. All parcels currently being assessed or which should have been assessed will receive the rate increase to catch up to what they should have been paying due to increases since 2005 that were never implemented. Lots that had been missed in assessments, the 300 parcels identified, will be assessed at the rate their neighbors pay.
The township pays for at-large streetlights such as those at major intersections, and Homan estimated about 100 of those for which the township will continue to pay. Annually that cost is about $40,000 from the General Fund.
Homan explained that street lighting can be added in a neighborhood by petition or by the request of a builder who puts up a new development and wants streetlights. The assessment varies from district to district, depending on the number and costs of the lights and the number of residents paying those costs. A large number of residents, such as in a housing complex, paying for few or one light can pay as little as under two dollars per year. Few residents paying for more lights would have a higher cost.
Of those paying the assessment in the township, Homan said the average was about $18 to $35 per year. The base pay a resident pays will not change with the exception of the increase. From now on, the rate will be adjusted as needed to match actual increases in charges from Consumers Energy.
Assistant to Homan, Priscilla Waldon, explained that a resident paying $25 per year will have an increase to $33.75. “It is really very minimal,” she said.
Two public hearings are scheduled to allow residents to hear about the rate increase on lighting as well as the restructuring of streetlight districts. Those to the south of the Grand River are invited to attend the public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Northview High School. Those living in Plainfield Township to the north of the river can attend Thursday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at Rockford High School.