ypsivotes and the city income tax

A few days ago, I mentioned that the YpsiVotes crew was thinking about hosting a town hall meeting on the subject of the proposed Ypsilanti City Income Tax. Well, we met last week, and the consensus seemed to be that, even if we could get both sides to a agree to a format, secure a location, and come up with a slate of good, impartial questions, there probably wouldn’t be enough time to promote such an event and nail down the alliances with media partners necessary to pull it off. So, it looks like there won’t be a live event. But, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to do anything.

As we feel as though there still exists a great need for impartial information on the subject of the proposed City Income Tax, we’re proposing the following. Assuming it’s agreeable to leaders on both sides of the debate, YpsiVotes would like to begin working with members of the local press and the community to draft approximately six questions that could be posed to both sides. The answers to these questions then, in addition to being posted online, printed and distributed around the city, would be featured in the local press. (I haven’t gotten a definitive answer from the “Ann Arbor News” yet, but the “Courier” has agreed to publish the questions and their answers.)

It may not be the perfect solution, but by having both sides respond to the same questions, our hope is that we might at least give people the opportunity to compare apples to apples. There will, of course, still be rhetoric, but hopefully, by proceeding in this fashion, we’ll be able to minimize it.

So, what questions do you have? Some have clearly surfaced over the course of the past three MM.com threads on the subject, but I’m sure there are more.

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67 Comments

  1. visitor
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    1)What is your plan if the tax doesn’t pass to balance the budget and be specific (cuts and spending)? 2) What is an appropriate level of service for the city (by department, especially fire and police)? 3) What would cost more in the long run the income tax or cuts in service levels (higher insurance rates, slower response from fire and police, lower property values, etc)? 4) With so much of the property being non-taxable what is the best way to increase revenues?

  2. Posted October 19, 2007 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    1)What is your plan if the tax passes to balance the budget and be specific (cuts and spending)? 2) What is an appropriate level of service for the city (by department, especially fire and police)? 3) What would cost more in the long run the income tax or cuts in service levels (higher insurance rates, slower response from fire and police, lower property values, etc)? 4) With so much of the property being non-taxable what is the best way to increase revenues?

  3. Mike T
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I’d like to know from both sides what gets cut if the tax does not go through. I’ve heard from the pro tax side that police and fire personnel will be lost. I’ve heard from the other side that this isn’t true. When I asked what will get cut, I’m told there’s tons of waste, but I’m not told what will be cut.

    I would also like to know what guarantees I will have, if the tax does pass, that it really will be for a limited time. My experience is that governments rarely follow through when it comes to such things. If we do pass the tax, I want to be assured that there’s an exit strategy. I’m not sure how that would be posed to both sides though.

  4. egpenet
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Good question.

    Also, the rollback is not a guarantee. And it could be rolled out again by a simple majority on council WITHOUT a vote of the people.

  5. surfin
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Heres the exit strategy Mike T “Section 3-7 Sunset provision
    This ordinance shall automatically expire and become void on July 1, 2014, unless reauthorized by vote of the electorate of the City of Ypsilanti.” From the city income tax ordinance approved by council for the vote of the residents of Ypsilanti. The millage rollback could be overturned by the council but it will never happen. It would be political suicide to flip flop on such a black and white issue. The Mayor and Council said they wouldn’t flat out so unless they want to upset all of their constituents who support them they won’t. Good question. Remember nearly all your questions can be answered in detail if you look at the information that is on ypsilantisfuture.com and the cityofypsilanti.com in the Income Tax section

  6. egpenet
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Correct. Like I said, the income tax will expire unless we vote to continue it.

    The rollback can be rolled on … at ANY time, by a simple majority. And if it IS rolled on it will be because … we’re just “four square miles” … “on the precipice of a disaster!”

    For the last eight years the democrats and republicans at the federal and state level have done NOTHING BUT offend their constituents with nearly evry single piece of war, financial and trade legislation! You can’t possibly think for one second that anyone on council is not concerned about offending YOU! Please. You got me theree … hoo, haw. That’s a GOOD one!

  7. Andrew
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    It’s not something that I’d ask to both sides, but I wonder if those against the tax feel as though we presently have too many police officers and fire fighters.

  8. me
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    When the idea of this local tax was first proposed, it was well before the state decided to increase the tax burden on those of us living and working here. Now that the state has decided to raise our taxes, does that change the equation at all? 1% is significant, but the cumulative 2% will push some of our neighbors over the edge.

  9. egpenet
    Posted October 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    We need MORE police and MORE fire fighters. Selling the tax based on doom and gloom won’t cut it. We need more and better EVERYTHING in town … but no one in the bully pulpit has shown how this council can handle money well enough to make it work.

    We said yes to new streets, yes to the library, yes to the schools and yes to Jennifer Granholm … it’s NOT the 1%. It’s the less than a handful of votes on council that have spent us into the backwaters of the Huron.

  10. MaryD
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Andrew your question should be:
    Why does our city government threaten that police and fire fighters should be first to go?
    As for Surfin:
    The millage rollback could be overturned by the council but it will never happen. It would be political suicide to flip flop on such a black and white issue.
    The political suicide is in calling for the tax in the first place and the council would vote the rollback in a New York minute when water street payments come due.

  11. surfin
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Maryd: Obviously you need to read Conan Smith’s comments again. There is no more fat to cut. Conan Smith has given you a reality check. This income tax proposal is well overdue and according to the policy expert Conan Smith its YPSI’s only REALISTIC option. The experts have spoken and have come out supporting the pro-tax side. Now the only strategy the anti-tax side has is to spread disinformation b/c they cannot counter the facts.

  12. amused1
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m kind of wondering what rules there are for putting up political lawn signs? I just walked out of my back yard to find “No Income Tax” sign plopped in my front lawn. I’ve never been contacted by anyone for permission, nor did anyone come around the back where I was mowing to ask me if they could put one up.

    I don’t like anyone coming into my yard and posting any political message without my express permission. I can’t imagine this is approriate behavior.

  13. mark
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    If you’re a renter, I suppose it’s possible that the “Vote No” folks had made arrangements with your landlord.

  14. Pete Murdock
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    amused1

    Apologies for the mix-up on the yard sign. E-mail your address to me and we will come pick up the sign – stopcityincometax@gmail.com

    Pete

  15. Posted October 20, 2007 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    * What is the relation to the income tax and what I thought I heard was going to be a roll-back of property tax? Will my home taxes go down as I have to start paying this new tax?

    * Has there been any study/research on the implications of the local income tax on city of Ypsi property values? I don’t know anything about this, but I would assume that it might hurt property values, which of course would mean another decrease in tax revenue in the long-run. What has been the impact of local income taxes in other Michigan communities?

    And I think a lot of the other questions that people raise here are good, too.

  16. Glen S.
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    In answer to the question from “me” (above) about the effect of an Ypsilanti income tax on top of the recent increase in State income tax, a bit of history is in order:

    In 1983, Michigan’s income tax was 6.35%. It then dropped slowly to a low of 3.9% this year, before recently rising again slightly to 4.35%.

    I think it’s worthwhile to note that, if the temporary income tax passes, our total State and local income tax burden would still be one full percentage point (or nearly 16% less) than it was 25 years ago.

  17. Kate L
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I also would like to know, from each side, exactly what services will be cut. About seven years ago we had to call 911 because my son had a febrile sezuire (which is actually not that serious – but we didn’t know that), the fire
    emergency team came what seemed like 10 to 15 minutes before the ambulance. If the situation is critical, a time difference like that ie: no fire emargency team, and a longer time for the ambulance, could be a life or death difference. The no tax side says there are ways around this, that it is just scare tactics. I want the specifics from each side on this, I’m not sure The most succinct way to put the question.

  18. mark
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for the terrific questions. Please keep them coming.

  19. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Having been watching presidential debates, I think the most relevant questions for public discourse are:

    -Your opponents say your are either ignorant or just plain stupid, which is it?

    -Yes or No. Are you still having sex with your mom?

    -If your side wins the election, who will spend eternity in hell, me or everyone I love?

    -In three words or less, why do you hate Ypsilanti and what is your plan for withdrawing the troops from Iraq and killing their children?

  20. Mark H.
    Posted October 20, 2007 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Glen S., it is always wise to keep relative tax burdens over time in mind. But it’s also wise to keep in mind real earnings over time — and most Michigan families and Ypsi families today have less real income (that is, income adjusted for inflation) than they did in 1983.
    So the 1% income tax on a student/worker/renter’s income, or on the single mom who is a server in Depot Town, or on any number of other working class people in Ypsi, is a harder hit now….because they are making less, in real dollars now, and need to make each dollar go further.

    I’m not arguing against taxation and public services. But this proposed city income tax is strutured so as to make it regressive – low wage workers renting their homes in Ypsi will pay the full 1% of their income in local income tax; not so for the higher income homeowners in town, who will be able to off set part of the 1% income tax by lowered property taxes.

    So the good folks on city council – and they are good folks – have designed a proposal that is Reaganite in its impact: The highest new tax burden will fall on those least able to afford to pay.

    Seems like a bribe designed to induce homeowners to support the tax while sticking it to our lower income neighbors. I say no to all Reaganite tax proposals.

  21. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Okay. Another question that has to be asked of the Mark H. genre anti-tax folks, at least, is: “Will you actively support a city income tax without a property tax rollback?”

    (Mark H.? Getto? Pierce? Robb? You’re reading. Well?) Is this the issue that’s holding this up or is the issue that folks with higher incomes and low property assessments will finally have to pay an equitable share and are hyper-funding a campaign to stop it from passing?

    Mark H. I’m really trying not to be cynical about you. But, a Reaganite tax increase? Are you serious? You really believe Reagan would want this tax? Or, are you just trying to slap a dirty label on it to dissuade citizens from taxing your colleagues? That, to me, sounds painfully Reagonesque.

    Mark M, sorry to continue the debate on this thread, but, I did, at least, offer a question…

  22. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Mark H: While the City income tax would in fact distribute the tax burden somewhat more equitably than it is now (among homeowners, renters, and non-resident workers)- make no mistake that, under this proposal, Ypsilanti homeowners will still shoulder the OVERWHELMING majority of the cost of providing necessary City services that benefit all residents.

    Also, since the new tax would be based on income (those who earn more pay more, those who earn less pay less), it will actually be much MORE fair than existing property taxes – under which even property owners who have low incomes (or those who even have lost their jobs) are still responsible for their full tax assessment.

    The 2-mill rollback was designed mostly to help ease the pain of new homeowners (victims of the dreaded Prop. A “pop-up”), as well as to attract new residents and businesses to Ypsilanti by minimizing their “pop-up” hit.

    Most long-time Ypsilanti homeowners (like me) who have benefited from the Prop. A “cap” will receive only a very modest benefit from the rollback.

    BTW – Rather than “Reaganite” in its intent (and likely outcome,) I think that instead, this fair, reasonable, and moderate proposal is rather “Clintonesque.”

  23. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Kate L: The City Manager’s solvency plan, which spells out all of the proposed cuts, is available at:

    http://cityofypsilanti.com/news/City%20Income%20Tax/solvency%20plan%20august

    In addition to cuts in many other areas, the the plan calls for:

    Eliminating 3 firefighters, City EMS service, and 2 police positions in FY 2009.

    Eliminating 3 additional firefighters, 4 additional police officers, and LAWNET drug enforcement in FY 2010.

    Eliminating City EMS service would mean we would have to rely on private operators such as Huron Valley instead of City Fire Rescue; meaning we would risk having crews travel longer distances, and therefore, increased response-times.

    In a recent City forum, Fire Chief Ichesco also said the planned cuts to fire staff would restrict the ability of his firefighters to do “interior attack” firefighting; since doing so requires a minimum number of firefighters per shift – something that would be impossible after the cuts.

    Chief Ichesco also said the cuts would raise Ypsilanti’s “ISO” fire-safety rating (a measure insurance companies use to calculate homeowners’ and renters’ insurance rates, and for which a lower number is better). He said he checked with his own insurance company and said they told him his own rates would likely rise from $540. to $600 – an 11% increase – if our ISO rating increases to “7” from our current “4.”

  24. visitor
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    It can’t be stated to many times. A detailed plan of cuts in services for the city IF THE TAX DOESN’T PASS is avaliable at ypsilanti.com in the income tax section under solvency plan. Maybe that should published in the courier. The solvency plan is a detailed plan created by the City Manager who holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Finance Director Marilou Uy who is a CPA. The answers to nearly all of our questions are right there to see. There is a high level of transparency on this issue and saying otherwise is simply propaganda.

    http://cityofypsilanti.com/news/City%20Income%20Tax/index_html

  25. Kate L
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Glen and visitor. Thanks for the info and the site reference. But the reason I want this put in some sort of question to both sides is that the No Tax side says that the reason the city put those EMS and Fire cuts in there was just to scare people into voting Yes Tax. Can we figure out a question to put to both sides that would clarify this issue. I’m very frazzled this weekend and can’t think of a good way to put it. Unless it is just a question of two sets of data Yes vs. No that never the twain can meet.

  26. visitor
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I think the reason for the cuts to ems and fire are as follows. FYE2009-ELIMINATE 3 Firefighters and EMS-ESTIMATED SAVINGS $249,000-PERCENTAGE OF FYE2009 DEFICIT 28%. The City must pass a balanced budget there is no more fat to cut and the City has no choice but to make these cuts. Thats why the anti-tax side MUST provide a detailed alternative plan that would have a balance budget with a 10% fund balance. THe pro-tax side has the solvency plan but the anti-tax must create a plan based on facts not rhetoric.

  27. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Kate L: I couldn’t agree more.

    However, as you can see from reading many of the posts on the recent Conan Smith I, II, and II threads, the “No” folks have been asked by several people on multiple occasions to share their plan for an alternative to either the income tax — or deep cuts to public safety, etc.

    So far, nothing…

    Therefore, the only CONCRETE information out there for voters to consider are the two plans developed by the City Manager: One WITH an income tax (continuing existing services at roughly current levels); and one WITHOUT an income tax (progressively deeper cuts to public safety and other key services.)

    Folks like me, who are supporting a YES vote are advocating for keeping services at current levels.

    Since the “no” camp has refused of offer an alternative, one can only conclude they are in favor of the cuts.

  28. Mark H.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    To Ol E Cross: speaking for myself, yes, i probably could support an income tax proposal that had no property tax rollback provision. But such a proposal is merely hypothetical and isn’t on the ballot. I don’t normally decide how to vote based on hypothetical policies. I used to favor an Ypsi city income tax, then I studied it and found the proposal lacking.

    To everyone — One of my students attended the EMU forum on the tax, and told me afterwards that if it passes, she and her roommates will find an apartment out in the township to rent, rather than lose 1% of their very modest incomes by staying in town. A rationale choice, no? Good policy promotes rationale choices by individuals that benefit the society. This tax fails that test.

    Also – if this tax is truly “temporary,” then it solves nothing. So while it would require reauthorization, city officials will seek its extension, if it is enacted next month. So it is deceptive to call it both a “solution” and a “temporary” tax. One cannot honestly claim for it to be both a solution and temporary.

    To Glen — saying as you do that “the City income tax would in fact distribute the tax burden somewhat more equitably” because it will tax more groups of low income residents and tax all the income of most lower paid working residents is a very strange use of the word “equitably.” Indeed, it is a Reaganite use of the word: Reagan cut income taxes for upper income people, while raising payroll taxes for the working people, resulting in huge tax breaks for the rich and increased taxation for most Americans. Clinton’s tax policies were progressive, in that they taxed upper income earners more than lower income earners. In contrast, the Ypsi income tax is regressive, as it will tax 1% of every dollar earned by non property owning residents. (Look at Clinton’s record – he brags rightly at lowering tax burdens for most Americans and only slightly raising them for the rich. That ain’t Reaganism, Glen.)

    And yes, Glen, you’re right that homeowners will still pay most of the taxes paid in Ypsi. But isn’t that true in all American cities lacking large non-residential taxable properties??? Since what you say will be true after the tax is already true and is in fact true virtually everywhere in America, I don’t get your point. But the statement does tend to cloud the fact that the city income tax will fall most heavily on those least able to pay. Very Reganesque, not at all Clintonesque. Reaganite policies divide communities, and Ypsi cannot afford the deeper divisions this tax will create.

    Lastly, a question for Glen, and for Mark M’s admirable desire for questions to pose to each side: “Do you think that the solvency plan drawn up the city manager, a dedicatd civil servant who for years has promoted the Water Street project, is a reliable and fair indication of what steps would be unavoidable if the City income tax is voted down? Or was it a plan that at least in part was designed to motivate people to vote for the tax?”

    If the city manager’s qualifcations are beyond question, Glen, and if his projections are as value-neutral and objective as you imply, then wouldn’t it follow that Water Street project would have by now proven to be the great success it was promised to be?

    To Mark Maynard – thanks for providing the forum! There are very good people on each side of this debate.

  29. Kate L
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I really like Mark’s idea of developing a list of questions for both sides to answer. I think I’ve figured out how to ask it. Thanks for helping clarify.

    What EMS and Fire Department services will be provided to the community and what will be cut without the resources of an Income tax? Please be specific.

    What EMS and Fire Department services will be provided to the community and what will be cut if we do have an Income Tax? Please be specific.

  30. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Mark H said: “Do you think that the solvency plan drawn up the city manager, a dedicatd civil servant who for years has promoted the Water Street project, is a reliable and fair indication of what steps would be unavoidable if the City income tax is voted down?”

    Yes, I think it is. Especially since it was heavily influenced by the recommendations of the independent and bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Committee, which carefully studied Ypsi’s fiscal crisis for over 18 months.

    However, the truth is that we may never have a chance to compare the City Manager’s plan to anything else, since, as so many people have now pointed out – SCIT has offered NO alternative.

    In fact, the City of Ypsilanti recently decided to sponsor three neighborhood forums on the income tax, and offered both the “Yes” and “No” sides an an opportunity to present their cases. Incredibly, SCIT flat-out refused to participate!

    I have never-before heard of any serious campaign passing up on three prime opportunities to present (and defend) their case before the voters! From a strategy perspective, I can only imagine it’s because they know they offer no realistic alternative, and are afraid that voters will figure that out.

    Let’s face it: The emperor has no clothes, and SCIT has no plan. The only question that remains is whether Ypsilanti voters still have time to figure that out before November 6.

    For those who are still still interested in detailed information about the income tax proposal; and learning more about both the tax- and no-tax solvency plans, I highly encourage you to attend one of the two remaining City-sponsored forums, as follows:

    · Monday October 22, 7 p.m. at Estabrook School

    · Wednesday October 24, 7 p.m. at Adams School

  31. Mark H.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Glen, I am not at all involved in SCIT strategy discussions, and I’ve not lifted a finger to help their efforts, though I am opposed to the tax. Clearly you trust the city manager’s calculations and regard them as objective and neutral. I think most voters will be more skeptical.

    However, if SCIT declined to participate in discussions sponorsed by the City, there is plenty of precedent for that kind of decision in American electoral history. That precedent falls into two different categories, and both may be relevant here.

    One is that the sponsorship of the forum may seem suspect, that is, biased toward one side before the event. Normally that’s enough to dissuade the side that sees its views as being prejudged negatively from participating. And lots of people do think the city officials are already biased on this issue..

    The second category of precedence for NOT participating in a forum of the kind you mention is that frontrunners often decline to appear with the other side….when it’s “yours to lose” you run a campaign that tries to minimize risk and mobilize supporters. Whether one likes it or not, this is a choice often made by winning camapigns. Whether that’s the strategy here, I have no idea, I don’t know, haven’t discussed strategy with either side.

    I have on other issues tried to get info from the city, and the results were no confidence inspiring, to say the least.

  32. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Mark: “SCIT” can certainly choose not to participate in the forums or engage with voters, but what about the three elected Council members who support a “no” vote? Don’t they owe it to the voters (their constituents) to tell us where they stand on this landmark issue?

    Council members Robb and Richardson, and Mayor pro-tem Swanson voted against putting this proposal on the ballot not once, but twice. At least two of the three have also been parties in a lawsuit (at taxpayer expense) challenging the ballot language in an attempt to stop the vote.

    I’ll go back to my earlier point: In the absence of any viable alternative plan, the only two strategies on the table are: 1.) A temporary income tax that preserves services at current levels, or 2.) Ever-deeper cuts to public safety services and other core programs.

    If, as you and SCIT suggest, the budget crisis really has resulted because the City is so terribly mismanaged — then it seems to me it would relatively easy for someone to put forward (for public review) a “management” plan for keeping the City solvent without cuts to services – and without a tax increase.

    However, no one has yet done so. Why…?

    Perhaps it’s because, for all the cries of “mismanagement,” the REAL cause of Ypsilanti’s budget crisis is actually long-term, structural, and mostly beyond our local control. (Again, I would refer you to the excellent earlier posts by Conan Smith, on this very topic.)

    Again… in the absence of any alternative plan, there are only two options on the table: The temporary income tax proposal; or ever-greater cuts to basic services. If our Council trio does not support the tax proposal, then, by implication, they must support the cuts…

    Frankly, I can’t imagine why more people haven’t yet figured this out. While people are asking the “Yes” camp “Why you support a tax increase;” the voters (and, so far, the Press) are not yet been asking the “no” camp why THEY support ever-deeper cuts to public safety services, and the elimination of basic community needs such as Parks Maintenance, the Senior Center, Pool, and AATA, etc.

  33. Posted October 21, 2007 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    To the YF folks: If the income tax is voted down, will you work together with SCIT participants to develop an alternative budget for the city that avoids cutting basic services?

    Asked another way, Is the income tax passing the only way you will do the work to try to insure basic services are not cut?

    Isn’t it true that an alternative budget needs to have both parties sitting down together and working towards collaboration? What would be the value of the SCIT folks posting an impenetrable 43 page document without the consensus of the majority of the City Council?

  34. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Teaspout: From a political perspective – if it were possible for the Council majority to draft a plan that avoided cuts to basic services without a tax increase, don’t you think they would have already done so?

    Asked another way: What politician in his or her right mind would advocate for a tax increase unless they thought it really was the very last, best alternative?

    The question for voters is: Do you want your politicians to tell you what you WANT to hear, or politicians who tell you what you NEED to hear?

  35. Mark H.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Glen,
    Keep things in perspective, friend. No one who is against the proposed income tax denies that there are macro, structural issues causing Ypsi’s fiscal problems. We just happen to think that the city’s reactions to those macro forces have not been optimal. Good management means making smart choices with the hand you’re dealt. Heck, the city administration took 38 acres that were under utilized but produced positive tax revenues and converted them into an approximately $20 million debt for the city!

    If you don’t make straw men arguments, Glen, you’ll be more persuasive. No one is saying Ypsi and the state don’t have real structural problems, or that solutions are easy and simple.

    And it is not fair for you to say that the three council members who are opposed to the tax haven’t put their views forward to the people of the city. That doesn’t mean they have to agree to every forum that the pro tax city leadership sets up (see my point above about the perception of tainted sponsorship).

    There are good people on each side, Glen. Or do you insist that all honesty and all well informed people are on your side?

  36. Posted October 21, 2007 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Glen,
    Thanks for continuing to respond to these posts. I appreciate hearing your viewpoints.

    Still, I guess the tone of “politicians telling me what I WANT to hear vs. what I NEED to hear” concerns me. Don’t you find that a bit parental?

    Also, isn’t it true that what I NEED to hear is that with or without the income tax, basic services will continue to need to be cut? AND that basic services are different than essential services?

    Wouldn’t the income tax be the equivalent of putting a bandage on a patient who is hemorrhaging?

    Without going into whether Water St. was or was not a good idea, isn’t it true that this income tax does nothing to work towards a solution to that problem?

    Why do you feel that it would not be worthwhile to go back to the table with new participants to hammer out the best possible budget that does the least amount of damage?

    I am very concerned that this tax question takes the folks who could be re-opening the Freighthouse or fundraising for the Pool or the Riverside Arts Center and pits them against each other.

    I still fail to see where posting an alternate budget which even I could do, would provide help instead of more divisiveness. For example, I could say that I can’t swim and don’t live in Normal Park so have no problem cutting the remaining money going to the pool. I could say that we could seriously cut the cost of lighting the City by switching to LEDs as Ann Arbor just did, getting grant money to help with the cost of making the switch.

    All that would do would open me to you saying that I am anti-Pool. And then divert the discussion further to whether or not the lights could actually be changed over.

    It wouldn’t move the needle one iota towards an actual solution to the budgetary crisis.

    The only real solution is working towards consensus. Not 50 people posting 50 budgetary scenarios that would not be seriously considered by City Council as a whole.

  37. Union Household
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    The “Gang of Four” at city hall have caused me to spend precious spare time to prevent negative things from happening in Ypsi. I’d much rather have spent that time on projects that are positive. My attempts to inform them of their collective folly has been met with accusations of being “crazy” (Gawlas). My faith in the current administration has waned and I expect them to blame ‘We the People’ if they fail to make things work out. The overwhelming number of RED signs convinces me that those ‘four’ are way out of touch with their constituants. Our Mayor is not going to have much of a legacy if he doesn’t start listening to a broader cross section of the people to seek ways to turn things around. Clearly, the City Income Tax idea is unsellable. $20,000.00 of precious city revenue and eleven months have been squandered. The ‘Opposition’ as you have choosen to call us, now have an up to date data base which will be very helpful in the not so faraway council elections of 2008.
    This political folly will become a classic in the annals of blunderdom!

    John Delcamp: Homeowner, taxpayer, activist.

  38. Glen S.
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    “I am very concerned that this tax question takes the folks who could be re-opening the Freighthouse or fundraising for the Pool or the Riverside Arts Center and pits them against each other.”

    I sincerely agree.

    “The only real solution is working towards consensus.”

    Again, I agree. Regardless of what happens on Nov. 6, the community needs to be able to come together to face our community’s most important challenge: building a sustainable future for Ypsilanti.

  39. visitor
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunatley the tone of these conversations is not cordial. I guess alot of that has to do with the mayoral election. The reality is however that if Steve Pierce was Mayor he would have to face the reality of the situation. Conan Smith and Joe Ohren are experts in the field of public policy especially municipal government and economic issues. They support the tax not because they like taxes but because they have sat down looked at the entire situation and realized that the reality of the situation. There are no magic fixes, no magic baseball stadiums(by the way what if they sucked and no one wanted to see them), and outsourcing police and administration would only be drops in the bucket. The City is one of many cities caught in the middle of this economic crisis.

  40. egpenet
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Water Street is a GREAT idea. The team thatnput it together were did do thier homework and were bline sided by the extent of the pollution on the site makibng residential housing in profitable terms a no starter.

    It is STILL a great idea .. but development of this brownfield site will take more time.

    In the meantime …

    The city threatens the apocalypse … “four sqare miles!” … “we’re on the verge of a precipice!” … quotes to an “impartial” EMU outsider.

    The “Plan A” from the City Manager is NOT acceptable. Calls for an SCIT plan are simply “politics.” Tell your city council person that the City Manager’s plan is unacceptable. Cutting fire and police is NUTS! The city has over $16 Million (and growing) to play with … cut something else. Stagger shifts. Close city hall for two weeks a month. Let the grass grow.

    I have alrewdy bitten my tongue twice today … but if we go go a towntownship fire department and give up the city police departmenr to ther sheriff … we’d be more than solvent. Minzey HAS to GO!

    I’ve been sent messages from my dad in Phoenix about their local Sheriff Alioto, who is a kick-ass, no-nonsense guy. With all of the issues at the county jail, my vote would go to Matt Herschberger to get creative in how to house, treat and keep busy the increasing number of inmates from city busts and repetitive criminal activities.

    MATT FOR SHERIFF!

  41. rodneyn
    Posted October 21, 2007 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    From egpenet: “Water Street is a GREAT idea. The team thatnput it together were did do thier homework and were bline sided by the extent of the pollution on the site makibng residential housing in profitable terms a no starter.”

    Water Street was a good idea incompetently handled by city administrative staff who were working well beyond their capabilities and expertise. Most importantly, the City Council and City Manager failed to provide appropriate oversight and adequate direction to maximize the potential for success. We lost the window of opportunity for success as a result.

    Regardless of the outcome of the income tax vote, we will be paying the price for the City Council’s (and Ciy Manager’s) failures for years to come.

  42. egpenet
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    And the guy types with two fingers and his key board is so screwwed up … what does HE know!

  43. Publius
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Here are some questions:

    If the income tax passes, will it make it more or less likely that Water Street will be developed?

    or alternatively,

    will the tax encourage or discourage business investment in the city?

    If the income tax passes, what will Ypsilanti’s tax burden be relative to surrounding communities, such as Ypsi Township, Canton, Ann Arbor, Saline, and Pittsfield Township?

    To city council members only:

    Please outline the cuts made to Ypsilanti’s budget over the last three years.

    How much do city employees pay for their health care?

    Do city employees have a pension or 401k plan? How much does the city pay into employees retirement?

    Why is the city promising new services if a the income tax is passed if we are in a crisis.

    When the tax is set to expire and the Water Street payments are coming due, do you really think the tax will be repealed?

    The citizens of Ypsilanti are being asked to make a sacrifice for the good of the community. Please outline how the city employees have made sacrifices for the benefit of the community.

  44. Publius
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    If the income tax passes will it make it less likely or more likely for people to purchase homes in the city?

    Will potential homeowners looking to move into Ypsilanti be more likely to understand the impact of an income tax on their decision or the impact of less services in a community they have never lived in?

  45. Andy C
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t the pool cut a few years ago? Every year there’s a fundraiser to keep it running. Why is it back on the list?

    Are the snow plows on the list? It seems like Ypsi is the fastest plowed city in the state.

  46. Glen S.
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Several years ago, when the City could no longer afford to maintain and staff the pool, a “Friends” group was organized to raise money for some much-needed repairs, and to provide volunteers for staffing. My understanding is that day-to-day operation of the Pool is now being handled almost entirely by volunteers.

    The City has continued to support the “Friends of the Pool” by keeping the heat and lights on, and by doing necessary routine maintenance, etc.

    However, this remaining support is one of the items scheduled to be cut, according to the City’s solvency plan.

  47. Jill
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    Can someone tell me how the proposed income tax would affect me? I do not own a home (thank doG!) but rent an apartment in Ypsi. I do not work in Ypsi (I work at U of M). Is it just that anyone who *lives* in Ypsi will be taxed regardless if they are renters or owners? Could someone please spell it out for me? Please?

  48. Pete Murdock
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Jill-

    If you live in the City of Ypsilanti you will be subject to the 1% city income tax no matter whether you rent or own and no matter where you work unless your workplace is also located in a City Income Tax City,in which case you will pay 1/2% to each City for a total of 1%.

    Pete

  49. Jill
    Posted October 22, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Gotcha! Thanks! I guess the city needs to get $$$ from somewhere, but man, that really kind of sucks.

  50. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Some questions for the “Virtual” debate:

    1.) What are the top 3 reasons for Ypsilanti’s budget crisis? Are these causes mostly local, or mostly the result of factors beyond our local control?

    2.) Without an income tax, are there other ways Ypsilanti could gain the significant additional revenues it will need to maintain essential services in coming years?

    3.) Do tax-exempt institutions like EMU have an obligation to help contribute to the cost of providing City services from which they benefit?

    4.) Twenty-two Michigan cities currently have an income tax, some similar in size to Ypsilanti. Overall, have these communities been harmed, or have they benefited from having the tax?

    5.) Opponents of the temporary income tax proposal have been criticized for not offering an alternative budget plan of their own. Is this criticism fair? If not, why?

    6.) If voters defeat the proposal on Nov. 6, which SPECIFIC programs or services should be cut to maintain a balanced budget over the next 3-5 years?

    7.) If voters defeat the temporary income tax proposal on Nov. 6, what differences in City services might an average Ypsilanti resident expect to experience in Year 1?, Year 2?, Year 3?

    8.) Overall, are Ypsilanti City services better, worse, or about the same as in neighboring communities?

    9.) Do residents in more densely-populated, urban communities like Ypsilanti have different needs; and should their voters have different expectations of local government, than those in less densely-populated, suburban or rural areas?

    10.) Ypsilanti has a higher percentage of Senior Citizens and lower-income residents than other local communities. What obligation do Ypsilanti residents have to help support City services – such as affordable recreation and public transit – on which many of our older and lower-income neighbors depend?

    11.) If voters defeat the temporary income tax proposal on Nov. 6; who stands to benefit the most? Who will be harmed the most?

    12.) Overall, is Ypsilanti a better place to live, a worse place to live, or about the same as it was 5 years ago? Why?

  51. karen
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I’d like to add a comment in regards to how the City Income tax, if passed, in Ypsilanti will affect you if you live in Ypsilanti and work in another community that you already pay an income tax (for example, in Detroit).
    I attended last night’s town hall meeting at Estabrook and an audience member asked that same question. The panel of income tax experts from Lansing and the City of Ypsilanti said if you live in Ypsilanti and work in Detroit – you would pay 1% to Detroit and .5% to Ypsilanti. They said you would not be exempt from paying in Ypsilanti even if you already pay in another community.

  52. Publius
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    In real terms (not adjusted for inflation) what are the total revenue and expenses for the City of Ypsilanti in the last 5 years?

  53. Pete Murdock
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Karen –

    You are correct for those who live in the City of Ypsilanti and work in Detroit – Detroit is the exception to the 1/2% each to Ypsilanti and the employment Income Tax City as I stated on my previous post. Detroit levies a higher tax rate than other Cities are allowed to and will still collect all of it’s non-resident tax plus you would pay 1/2% to the City of Ypsilanti.

    Pete

  54. Union Household
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    If the tax passes, Ypsilanti will eventually, by about the third year, be at the point where they will be hiring more clerical staff to administer the tax while laying off police and firemen. Meanwhile, some of the higher income wage earners as well as some busineses and renters, will have left town. A futher glut of residential space is eminent as well as plummeting market values of houses. Expect to be able to borrow less money against your home and be charged higher interest rates when you borrow.

    Ultimately, the city dosen’t have a clue as to the residual effects of their tax, making the the whole scheme a sort of crap-shoot which piles all of the risk on the property owners. To this I say, as I have said before, NO THANKS!

    Proponents of the tax have their collective heads stuck in the income-tax BOX. They refuse to dislodge themselves and won’t unless the tax scheme is solidly defeated. Otherwise, if the election is close, they’ll keep trying over and over again.

    So…

    Bring your friends and neighbors to the polls on Nov. 6th and Vote NO! Bury this risky gamble once and for all.

    John Delcamp: for the future of Ypsilanti and its citizens.

  55. John Gawlas
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I trust Pete, that you are simply mistaken and not intentionally careless about the tax application.

    Karen: The primary responsibility would be to the city in which you work. In the event you work in the City of Detroit, you would be obligated to pay Detroit 1-1/4% of your income earned within the city. This tax payment would then be applied as a tax credit on your Ypsilanti City Income Tax. Of course, your credit will be limited to the maximum 1% tax for Ypsilanti residents (otherwise our City would be in the position of reimbursing you for taxes paid to another city). If you work in the City of Detroit and live in the City of Ypsilanti, you would pay no income taxes to the City of Ypsilanti.

    I did not attend the Town Hall meeting the other night, but find it hard to believe that “tax experts” would indicate you had any obligation beyond 1%. You can consult the City of Grand Rapids tax return form and instructions for the application of an income tax in Ypsilanti if passed.

    If you had a two income household with one person working in Detroit and the other working in say, Ann Arbor, and filing jointly…add the incomes together, take the deductions (probably $2000) and then calculate your tax ($00,000 x 0.01 = X). X is your tax liability before subtracting the tax credit for taxes paid to Detroit.

    Based on state tax law, no one would be subject to a local income tax in Ypsilanti greater than 1% of their adjusted income.

    John Gawlas
    Council Member, Ward 2

  56. Publius
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m with John. I pay the Detroit income tax, so the Ypsilanti tax won’t hit me as hard. My wife works in Ann Arbor. I am voting against this tax because of the residual negative impact that it will have on Ypsilanti. Any college level economics student could tell you how people respond to economic incentives. This income tax is a huge red flag saying Get Away! Stay Away!

  57. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Union Household said: “If the tax passes, Ypsilanti will eventually, by about the third year, be at the point where they will be hiring more clerical staff to administer the tax while laying off police and firemen. Meanwhile, some of the higher income wage earners as well as some busineses and renters, will have left town…”

    There are currently 22 cities in Michigan that have an income tax. They range in size from Hudson (2,499) to Detroit (839,319), making direct comparisons with Ypsilanti difficult.

    However, the two income-tax cities with populations that are closest to Ypsilanti (21,039) are Hamtramck and Walker.

    From 2000-2005, the U.S. Census estimates that Walker’s population has increased from 22,028 to 23,420, or +6.3%

    From 2000-2007, SEMCOG estimates that Hamtramck’s population has increased from 22,976 to 25,394, or +10.5%

    I am not suggesting that passing an income tax will automatically result in an increase in Ypsilanti’s population. In fact, some of the 22 income-tax cities have been gaining population, while others have losing.

    However, assertions that a temporary income tax will AUTOMATICALLY result in an exodus of residents and businesses are simply not true.

    Ypsilanti’s future prospects will, in fact, very likey depend on a wide variety of other factors in addition to taxes – including our ability to maintain quality public services.

  58. Pete Murdock
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    John –

    I guess I will take the word of the City’s expert from the Lansing Income Tax office rather than your uninformed speculation.

    Pete

  59. rodneyn
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Glen S: “From 2000-2005, the U.S. Census estimates that Walker’s population has increased from 22,028 to 23,420, or +6.3%. From 2000-2007, SEMCOG estimates that Hamtramck’s population has increased from 22,976 to 25,394, or +10.5%. I am not suggesting that passing an income tax will automatically result in an increase in Ypsilanti’s population.”

    I trust Glen, that you are simply obfuscating and not intentionally misleading about the pro-tax population increases.

    Those two communities share only their relative populations with Ypsilanti – no other characteristics of Walker or Hamtramck are similar to Ypsilanti. Hamtramck’s population increases are coming from an influx of Middle Eastern and other immigrants who are replacing the older resident population. Walker is in a high growth zone of a high growth county. Walker is part of the Grand Rapids region, which is not experiencing the same depth of economic downturn as SE Michigan due to a much more diversified economic base.

    Other than that, good information to know.

  60. rodneyn
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    The Honorable John Gawlas, Councilmember: “Based on state tax law, no one would be subject to a local income tax in Ypsilanti greater than 1% of their adjusted income.”

    Pete Murdock: “Detroit is the exception to the 1/2% each to Ypsilanti and the employment Income Tax City…. Detroit levies a higher tax rate than other Cities are allowed to and will still collect all of it’s non-resident tax plus you would pay 1/2% to the City of Ypsilanti. “

    Mr. Gawlas, it is comforting to know that you did not need to know all of the relevant facts before voting to place this income tax proposal before the voters. As a voter, I find that “seat-of-the-pants” approach most endearing in my elected representatives.

  61. Mark H.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    On the face of it, isn’t it obviously true that a 1% income tax is likely to be a disincentive to moving here? Especially when added to the city’s already highest in the county property taxes? These are factors that homebuyers consider, and neither are attractions for Ypsi. I think the town’s future depends on the competativeness of our local housing market, and that’s one of the reasons i’m voting No on November 6.

  62. KT
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I liked your questions earlier, Glen. Regardless of whether they’re used for this Ypsi Votes thing, they should be answered.

  63. Glen S.
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    rodneyn said: “Walker is part of the Grand Rapids region, which is not experiencing the same depth of economic downturn as SE Michigan due to a much more diversified economic base.”

    Indeed, the area around Grand Rapids – yet another Michigan city with an income tax – is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the state.

    In fact, here’s what a July 2006 article in MiBiz a West Michigan business review had to say about Grand Rapids:

    “Construction is at a fever pitch in Grand Rapids. The city’s downtown district looks like a boomtown with construction cranes towering over the city’s seemingly ever-changing skyline. Grand Rapids Economic Development Director Susan Shannon agrees that it is an exceptional time in the city’s history. She told MiBiz that the construction activity in and around downtown Grand Rapids is the result of two years of hard work.

    How much development is going on in the city’s central business district? Shannon’s best estimate is taht there are $1.2 billion worth of construction projects either under construction or planned in Grand Rapids.”

    Again, I am NOT suggesting that Ypsilanti will suddenly experience a “boom” if we pass a city income tax. All I’m saying is that – based on the experiences of many other communities in Michigan and beyond – the ongoing assertions that a 1% income tax to preserve essential city services in Ypsilanti is somehow going to spell the end of our city are patently absurd.

  64. rodneyn
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Glen S., your insistence on putting forth this “not suggesting” notion that a city income tax and population increases are correlated in some positive way is an impressive example of obfuscation. Ignorance of the West Michigan economy shows in your comments. It’s a different world over there, speaking as a former WMi resident.

    If you took time to educate yourself about the Grand Rapids region, you would find a group of communities that have taken the essential steps to diversify their economy, and that cooperate in ways unimaginable to our Mayors and majority on City Council. The Grand Rapids Metro Council has existed for many years, and along with local elected officials, “The Right Place” economic development organization, and significant private investment has been instrumental in helping to create the conditions you describe.

    Our Ypsilanti City Council has not only failed to take any of the steps needed to create the economic conditions needed to even partially offset the corrosive effects of a local income tax, they have actually taken actions that will exacerbate those effects! It is private investment that is driving the local economy, not city administration. An Ypsi income tax would inhibit opportunities for future private investment by deflecting potential investors to surrounding communities.

  65. Andy C
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    How many of the 22 cities in Michigan that have an income tax didn’t bring down property taxes to balance out the difference?

    As for people leaving Ypsi, how many people who threatened to go to Canada after the last Presidential election actually did?

  66. egpenet
    Posted October 24, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I would rather “loan” the money from my equity than pay an income tax. Making a reasonable interest rate from my loan to the City makes more sense to me than watching tax dollars float out into Ford Lake and beyond.

  67. John Gawlas
    Posted November 2, 2007 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to note my incorrect assertion related to the Detroit income tax that I previously posted while on vacation in Utah. My comments failed to take into account that the tax credit is limited to the non-resident percentage.

    In deference to former Mayor Murdock, hopefully I was simply mistaken and not intentionally careless.

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