How are things in Ypsi likely to change, if the city income tax doesn’t pass?

Our last few posts about the proposed city income tax have not only initiated a lot of good, substantive conversations, but they’ve also led to quite a few more questions. Case in point… a couple of days ago, I received the following note from a reader of this site named Erika.

Hi Mark, thanks for your continued coverage of Ypsi issues. I was wondering if you could help assemble and publish a list of city services that would no longer be possible or reliable if the income tax and milages don’t pass? I don’t think people really understand what it would mean to live in a city that wasn’t “intact” or “functional” or “sustainable”. So many of the newspaper articles mention that, but the only things that ever come up are police and fire. What are some other services that the city offers which could be impacted, reduced or cut? Off the top of my head, I am thinking trash/recycling/yard waste removal, snow plowing/salting, road maintenance/signs, ordinance/code enforcement, issuance of building permits, assessor services, clerk services, street lighting, mowing/maintenance at parks… what else? Also, what are some examples of life without these services? No one to issue building permits: serious delays in renovation/improvement of buildings in the city. No one to pick up recycling: cart all of your recycling to the Ann Arbor recycle center in your own car, pay a fee. No one to replace damaged road signs: missing road signs. No street lights: dark streets. We need to paint a picture in better detail so people can actually understand that this is real, that things they take for granted or assume just happen by magic are going to stop happening. I don’t really know what I am talking about here, I am just guessing on some of this stuff… who would be able to describe all of this in better detail? Paul Schrieber? Ed Koryzno? Frances McMullin? Thoughts?

Well, I took the opportunity to forward Erika’s email to a few people who that I thought might have something useful to say on the matter, as well as all of the current members of Ypsilanti City Council. Following are the responses that I’ve received thus far. Hopefully you’ll find them informative. I’m sure, based on the conversations we’ve had thus far, that some of you out there will refer to these comments as “scare tactics”, intended to promote the pro-income tax agenda. All I can say is that I’m trying, as best as I can, to provide factual information. Yes, it may be scary, but sometimes the truth is. If you have facts contrary to those which are being shared, though, I’d encourage you to leave a comment. And I’ll do my best to see that your concerns are addressed.


MICHAEL BODARY, Council Member:
Questions about what we have left in departments other than police and fire have been asked and I will try to answer some, but others may chime in with others. I’m only speaking off the cuff now. Generally we try to make changes when someone moves on so we are not leaving them unemployed. Recently we outsourced our assessor’s position to a 2 day a week contracted position with more time during hearings. We also contract with Pittsfield Twp. for inspections on an as needed basis. Private firms do other specific inspections and are paid by the collected fees. We have a full time person doing small building rental inspections but our main inspections officer Mr Frank Daniels Jr. does larger buildings as time allows. he is assisted by Mr. Jackson who enforces city code violations. Parking ticket collections are outsourced and we have seen a increase in payments and settlements. Violations are subject to the Administrative Hearings Bureau and fines are used to defray costs. Each section of administration has downsized and may have more cuts necessary. Many jobs have been combined, especially in city hall where people wear multiple hats as needed.

BRIAN ROBB, Council Member:
In every scenario under consideration, we need to cut $700K out of the FYE 2013 budget that we will adopt in June. We don’t know what those cuts will be yet. In November we asked Mr. Koryzno to come up with a list. That list is still being generated. A lot of things are going to get cut regardless of the election issues. We’ll make those decisions in May.

There is a separate millage for trash and recycling collection. We currently run a deficit and fund that deficit from the motor pool. The contract with Waste Management is up for renewal in 2013. Ypsi Twp’s contract is up at the same time. We could possibly get a better deal if both communities can negotiate one mega-contract. We tried to do this back in 2007, but Ypsi Twp’s contract didn’t line up with ours. They renewed their contract and planned to have it end when ours does in hopes of negotiating together. It’s possible we could go to pay to throw trash service, but if we did that, I’d imagine most residents would drop their trash off in front of City Hall. We could also privatize recycling. This could make sense when it comes time to replace the trucks that pick up recycling, but that’s not scheduled to happen any time soon. That’s a lot to take in at once, but it means that trash pick-up and recycling aren’t disappearing.

DPW is funded almost entirely from Act 51 funds. This is where damaged roads signs and snow removal comes from in the budget. In every scenario we’ve run, there are no lay-offs in public works.

The Building Department is nearly self-sustaining. It wouldn’t make any sense to lay anyone off from a department that pays for itself.

The City contracts for assessing services. We are legally required to provide assessing services on an annual basis.

The City Charter requires that we have a City Clerk. We have two people working in the Clerk’s department. Theoretically we could reduce that number to one, but it’s unlikely.

The City has a part-time ordinance enforcement officer. He’s awesome as far as I’m concerned. Theoretically we could get rid of him, but it’s unlikely.

The City has one employee dedicated to parks. Theoretically we could hire a corporate lawn service, but I’m not sure what savings would occur, if any.

The City spends around $580K annually on streetlighting. In November I asked about the legality of creating a streetlighting special assessment district. The idea is that each parcel would be assessed a share of that $580K and that expense would then come off the books. It’s not cutting costs as much as is making residents pay for yet another service. Garden City passed a variation of this proposal in October. Some members of Council are still on board with this, but I’m not. I could see a special assessment district that raised the capital to convert all lights to LED savings us as much as 30% a year ($180K), but we’d have to study it in order to find real numbers.

The only thing on your list that I haven’t address yet is road maintenance. We ran out of money to do roads a few years ago. East Cross was done with ARRA money. West Cross is being done with money we sat aside during the FYE 2010 budgetting process (hoping we would also get ARRA money). The two biggest road projects left are Grove Road and Huron River Drive. I don’t think we’ll be in the TIP plan for Grove Road until 2016. The first street millage falls off the books in FYE 2017 with the second expiring in FYE 2019. We could always renew those, but that’s a bit complicated since those were for local streets and what remains are major streets.

Back in November, City Staff gave us the average cost of a General Fund employee (i.e. not DPW) as being $75,989. There are 72.88 General Fund employees in the City. According to City Staff, that means General Fund employees cost us $5,538,078. If our total General Fund revenues for FYE 2012 were $11,797,305, the City spends $6,259,227 on things that aren’t employees (i.e. streetlighting, insurance, legal costs, Water Street debt, etc.).

By FYE 2017, a Water Street debt retirement millage will add 5.9971 mils to your taxes. In addition, the Fire & Police pension millage will have risen to 15.2972 (an increase of 8.974 over today’s millage rate). That’s a 14.9711 increase in the next five years. I only add those numbers for the surreal factor plus the fact that no one seems to be talking ablut the massive F&P pension millage increases.

Now that may sound like a very significant tax increase, but the good news is we’re expecting the value of your home to drop 18%.

I also need to mention that even with a income tax and 15 mils of property tax increases, we’ll still need to cut another $700K from the FYE 2015 budget, so don’t let anyone convince you that these ballot measures are going to “maintain” services at their current levels. These ballot measures are going to allow us to only cut $1.4M out of the budget over the next three years.

Obviously these are not the answers you wanted, but no one is going to be able to tell you we’re going to cut X of these, Y of these, and Z of these because we haven’t identified them yet.

PETE MURDOCK, Council Member:
As with everything it’s complicated with City budgeting.

Clearly if our revenues are going down $4M from $14M to $10M over five years and we now have make payments for Water Street Debt ($1.3M) significant expenditure reductions (cuts) are necessary with no additional revenue. We will have at the City Council meeting on Feb 7 five year projections – one with new revenue and one without. It won’t be a detailed budget document but it will show the impact on personnel and services.

The short answer to the inquiry is virtually everything we do in the general fund will be impacted. The largest expenditures are in public safety – police, fire and building/code enforcement and most of that is personnel.

That’s where the money is. We have already reduced staffing by one third over the last ten years from 139 to 93. Those reductions have been across the board, including police, fire, DPS and Administration. Even City Council had been reduced from 11 to 7 in 1995. Some services such as Clerk, elections, Assessing for example are mandated by law and can’t be eliminated. And they already have been reduced to two persons in the Clerk’s office and contracting out the assessor. Other functions such as the Building Inspection, Rental Inspection and Parking Enforcement generate their own revenue and elimination of those activities would eliminate the activity would achieve little if any net savings. Some items such as buildings and parks maintenance are already near non-existent. The solid waste operations (Trash, Recycling and compost) are funded out of separate dedicated millage. But this fund has an ongoing deficit that been supported by an additional $300K transferred from other sources. The loss of the ability to maintain that subsidy, would cause a reduction and/or elimination of these services .The streets are funded by an allocation from the state of the gas tax which has been shrinking every year and already has caused reductions in some of the items mentioned in the email. Road funding is a big topic of the governor and the legislature. Increased funding and a new distribution formula is being contemplated. The new formula could be to our benefit or our detriment. We are watching that one closely with our folks in Lansing. As an aside most of the DPS employees are paid out of the solid waste or Major or Local Street funds – not the general fund.

An early estimate of staffing reductions from Ed estimated a 14-17 person reduction the first year and more following out of approximately 73 GF employees.

Existing employees (FTE) in the GF

12.03 City Hall Administration, (City manager, Finances, Human Resources, City Clerk, Planning)
35 Police
19.5 Fire
3.95 Building Inspection/Code Enforcement
2 Parks and DPS
72.48 TOTAL

Hope that’s not too confusing.

Also, I forgot to mention that two of our police officers are funded through a COPS grant (Other People’s Money) and it runs out next year (FY 2012-13) – making the reduction of two police positions produce no net savings to our general fund.

PAUL SCHREIBER, Mayor:
In order to answer the specifics listed in the original email, city council must pass a budget. City council will consider a five-year budget on February 7. According to the city charter, city council must be pass the annual detailed budget ordinance by June 30. Specifics of services lost will become clearer as the budget is fleshed out…

Property taxes are no longer a stable source of revenue. Even if property values shot up, Prop A and Headlee would keep revenues down. A city income tax would boost and diversify revenues.

As an example, without a revenue boost the city estimates that 41 general fund employees would be cut by 2017. The city currently employs 20 in the fire department and 34 in the police department out of 73 general fund employees. The other 19 employees administer clerk, finance, planning and zoning, treasury and others. It’s hard to imagine how city services could be delivered by cutting 41 of these employees or any other combination of cuts to balance the budget. That’s why I support the city income tax and the Water Street bond millage.

RICHARD MURPHY, former City Planner:
It sounds like the questioner is interested in qualitative changes, too.

One that I’ll call out (predictably) is the planning & economic development function, which can be seen as the piece of the city government dedicated to enabling and helping good stuff to happen (developers building things, businesses moving in, attracting residents) as opposed to meeting state mandates (clerk, assessing, etc) or preventing bad things from happening (public safety).

Check out this aptly-named article on Ferndale’s Valentine Vodka micro-distillery, “What does it mean to be business-friendly?” For a startup or other small business, “get out of the way” is *not* the highest and best thing that the city can do for them: they need and want help from city staff to find appropriate buildings, interface with resources (whether incentive programs, networking, etc.), or navigating higher-level regulatory processes (city planning staff spends a lot of time helping businesses deal with the county and state). A city that does not have somebody on staff to play that role, to handhold and advocate for developers and businesses, will lose out to communities that can provide that service.

Benton Harbor and Pontiac are the counter-examples, of cities that can’t provide that: both have eliminated their planning & development staff, and thus lack anyone for a new business or developer to talk to for help, advice, and support. As a result, some developers won’t even try, or will give up when they can’t get that support. (And this is what I have been told by developers who have done work in those cities in the past, not just within my echo chamber.)

So, what do you make of all that? And, if I may ask, are you more inclined, or less inclined to vote “yes” for the local income tax as a result of having read through it? Or, are you too busy putting your house on the market, in hopes of selling it before we fall into the abyss, to give the vote much thought?

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104 Comments

  1. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Mark. That is exactly what I was looking for. Murph hit it right on the head: I’m concerned about “quality of life” issues.

    I am glad to know that at least some of the basic city services are mandated, self-sustaining or paid for with dedicated funds. The details like the the 2 police officers paid for by COPS that will no longer be funded, yet will not alleviate any of the budget problems, and the road maintenance issues were interesting. It’s also interesting to know that curbside pick up services cost $300k more than their millage supports. I was shocked to hear that street lighting costs $580k…yet we certainly cannot go without it. I am surprised to hear that we only have 2 employees for parks and DPS – not much room to cut there or we lose even basic maintenance of parks, such as mowing grass.

    One thing that I have heard from a lot of people is that one of our big problems is the fact that so much of our land is non-taxable (EMU). Well, one way for EMU to contribute to the city’s crisis is to use an income tax on all of those employees that come in to work at EMU. Non-resident employees would pay 0.5% and residents would pay 1%. That’s a relatively small price for them, but a fairly decent chunk of new revenue to help the city move forward. Their students live in our city (when off campus) and rely on our city to protect and serve them while they are here, buying an education from EMU.

    For all of the folks shouting from the rooftops about how a 1% income tax will not bring “new business”, I wonder how increased insurance rates (unreliable fire and theft protection), crumbling roads, no city planners to help with development, reduced trash removal, and personal safety concerns for employees and customers will help with bringing new business to town?

    If it’s going to take the proposed increases just to allow us to *only* cut $1.4m from the budget over 3 years, how can anyone possibly think that they can vote “no” on the proposal?

    I realize that the property tax situation is hard to stomach, but as Brian Robb pointed out, our values are dropping, so the basis of our rate calculations will drop and soften the increase in what we actually pay. That is not good for bringing in new homeowners, but neither is the alternative of insufficient police, fire, parks, roads, etc. “Welcome to Ypsi – we don’t have an income tax, so you can spend that money to hire a private security guard!”

  2. Mr. X
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Waiting patiently for someone to suggest using prisoners to staff our Planning Department.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I appreciate the perspectives from various Council members, the Mayor, and Murph, but what I think voters really need — and what would enable them make a more informed decision — is for City Council to formally pass two 5-year budget plans: One with the two new proposed taxes; and one without.

    While a 5-year plan isn’t as concrete as an actual budget (or budgets), it would at least give voters an chance to see more of the specifics items at stake — including what would have to be cut (or not) in each of the next five years.

    The choice we will face in this election is a stark one — and voters deserve nothing less thanto see a side-by-side comparison of what a “Yes” or “No” vote actually will mean.

  4. EOS
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    How much would the city gain back if they eliminated the multiple development authorities and put the business taxes back into the general fund pool?

  5. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I just looked at my tax bill from 2011 Summer here is basically what it says:
    CITY 23.34430 $1186.11
    SANITATION 2.7814o $130.16
    ST 2001 RFD 2010 2.23460 $104.57
    STREET BOND 03 2.33390 $109.22
    PUBLIC TRANSIT 0.97890 $45.81
    SCHL DBT 7.00000 $327.60
    STATE ED 6.00000 $280.80
    WCC 3.71760 $173.98
    WISD 3.97450 $186.00
    LIBRARY 2.74100 $128.27
    COUNTY 4.54930 $212.90
    ADMIN FEE $28.85
    2010 WINTER:
    COUNTY 1.10550 $61.80
    ADMIN FEE sixty one cents…

    The taxes I paid in 2011 were $2976.68 on a house assessed at $46,800.00 with 100% homestead exemption.

    I don’t know what ST 2001 RFD 2010 is or when STREET BOND 03 will be paid. I can tell you that when I paid for my own garbage removal it was $39/quarter with recycling an additional $1/bag. I don’t see that a change in trash pickup would affect anything significant with anyone’s tax bill. That leaves city, schools, library, county, and admin. fee…

    I don’t want a city income tax. I already feel like I’m getting ripped off because I have no children and pay so much for public schools. You can go on about how it’s a benefit to society to not have illiterates everywhere but I firmly believe that if you choose to have children you should contribute more to the educational system. I looked a cheap, gigantic, beautiful homes in Detroit before purchasing my house in the City of Ypsilanti. I didn’t buy any of them because of the taxes. From everything I’ve read it doesn’t even look like an income tax is a good long term solution to anything. What we need is more people in the city and for property values to increase. I don’t know what to do about the second problem but maybe we could work out some sort of program where anyone who buys a house in the city of Ypsilanti in 2012 will receive a coupon good for one year of zero property taxes redeemable anytime in the next ten years. Is that rec center going in on Water Street? How is the property being marketed? At this point if I want to buy a .24 acre lot on the river I should be able to sign papers tomorrow. It’s understandable to not want a Burger King there but if McDonaldsBKTacoBELLSubwayArbysWallgreensCVSLiquorStoreCheckCashingPIZZAPIZZAPIZZA is who’s paying then move them in because someone’s got to bring home the bacon and if you look around, they are who aren’t going out of business. Every time I pass that McDonalds on Ecorse/MI Ave I notice how nice the landscaping is. Nothing is all bad and as much as people on this blog might hate it there are way more people eating at Ypsi. McDonalds than Beezy’s today. There is plenty of room around here for both.

  6. Burt Reynolds
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    As soon as I completed reading the last word of Emma’s post, I out loud said, Boom! Talk about dropping the hammer. My God, do residents of Ypsi proper seriously pay 3K in taxes for homes worth 50k? For what?? And City Council wants to tax more? That sounds insanely mismanaged to me.

  7. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Trying to answer my own question I imagined myself a developer who heard about this Ypsilanti Water Street Development and wanted more info. I typed Ypsilanti Water Street into search engine, went to Arbor Wiki where the two links that seemed relevant were removed. I found a video on Vimeo that directed me (if I wanted to learn more about this opportunity) to the CityofYpsilanti.com website which appears to have been recently re-designed but on the main page has NO INFORMATION on Water Street, nothing in the News tab, nothing in the Events tab. Lets start there. The real estate listing for the Water Street property needs to be on the front page of the city website at the very least… Finally I typed Water Street in the search field and got here:
    http://cityofypsilanti.com/DoingBusiness/WaterStreetRedevelopmentArea
    from where I was able to find the property listing:
    http://www.loopnet.com/xNet/Looplink/Profile/Profile.aspx?LL=true&LID=15803762&STID=cbre
    It appears as though no one is really trying.
    If you live in Ypsi. and find a Water Street tenant you should get a free year of taxes too.

  8. Glen S.
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    @ Emma

    “What we need is more people in the city and for property values to increase.”

    I agree with you Emma. It’s just hard for me to see how that’s going to happen in a community that can no longer afford adequate police or fire protection, can’t maintain its parks, etc.

  9. Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    @Burt Reynolds: State-assessed value is theoretically half of market value, so that’s really $3k in taxes on a $94k home.

  10. K2
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I don’t necessarily agree, but I’d love to see Emma’s comment moved to the front page for discussion.

  11. anonymous
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    This was incredibly useful. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to answer.

    I’d also like to hear from those on City Council who didn’t.

  12. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s pretty clear from what has happened in Flint, Detroit, Highland Park, Lansing and other cities around the state that population and property values don’t increase when crime and blight take over. In fact, as the more skittish and financially able among us begin selling to escape to someplace that feels safer and looks nicer, or when they let their homes go into foreclosure in order to escape, all of our property values will decrease even further. We have plenty of examples of that happening in other cities; we know what can happen.

    This is our chance to stop that decline in it’s tracks. Right now.

    Think of a few unintended consequences of not paying to keep our police & fire and other basic services – increased home and auto insurance, for example. Do you know how much people in crime infested cities pay for car insurance and home owner’s policies? A lot more than you do now. And probably more than 1% of your income. When I lived in Ferndale, I paid at least 40% more for car insurance because I lived too close to Detroit.

    So, pay it in income tax to save the city, or pay it to your insurance company so you can get coverage for the home break-ins, the stolen cars, etc. that will become a part of your life when we no longer have police protection and the criminals notice that stealing from us is cheaper and easier than getting pay day loans.

    The income tax may cost you 1%, but it will also bring in the only tax revenue that EMU will ever bring to Ypsilanti. It’s not a small amount, when you consider the number of people EMU employs. This new revenue will bring some needed stability. You know what entices people to move to a city? Stability. You know what increases property values? People to buy the properties – people that come to live in a stable community.

    There is plenty of empty commercial property for fast food joints and payday loan centers all around us, and those are not the types of businesses that are going to attract more people with enough income to buy houses and bring up property values. Those are the kinds of businesses that attract people who can’t pay the rent. Water Street is a complicated issue and it is not the main drag on our budget (that’s retiree pension/benefits), nor is it the largest area of land mass that pays no property taxes (that’s EMU).

    Listen, I live here too, and my property tax bill is no joke, but still I chose to live here. I got twice the house I would have gotten for the same price in Ann Arbor, so I am willing to pay more in taxes – I still have the University culture, the historic home in a city with a sense of history and character. I didn’t want to live out in a developed cornfield so that I could pay nothing in taxes but not have a downtown or any sense of place.

    I chose Ypsi because it was affordable but didn’t have the urban drama that other cities have. It’s safe, it’s taken care of by it’s residents. I don’t want to lose that because some people don’t want to pay a little more to keep us safe and protected. I don’t want to have to run like so many of our parents/grandparents did from Flint, Detroit, Saginaw, etc.

    Do you?

  13. Megan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    And once again, Ward 1 comes out loud and clear. Oh wait, that’s right, no one from Ward 1 deigned to respond. Lovely.

  14. Anonymous Mike
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Will Steve Pierce be mounting a campaign against the income tax this time, like he did last time?

  15. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    @ Erika

    “There is plenty of empty commercial property for fast food joints and payday loan centers all around us, and those are not the types of businesses that are going to attract more people with enough income to buy houses and bring up property values. Those are the kinds of businesses that attract people who can’t pay the rent.”

    Do city income taxes attract these affluent people who don’t eat fast food and are able to pay rent? Do giant empty fields??

    I used to work at McDonalds and lots of rich people ate there…

    One of the greatest things about Ypsilanti is that you don’t have to have a lot of money to buy a house here and contribute to the community. Every day these foreclosed houses remain empty they deteriorate and become less desirable to anybody. I’ve been through so many houses in this city that are water damaged, rodent infested, full of mold, full of garbage, places where all of the appliances are gone, where all of the copper was torn out, where the countertops, floorboards, trim and fencing were sold off. I seriously doubt that someone who can afford more is going to buy one of these houses. They are excellent opportunities though for people to build that infamous sweat equity and have a place to live for $100 or so / month mortgage payment, you can make that collecting bottles if you’re organized… I live in Ward 1. The neighborhood improves whenever anyone moves into one of these empty houses. I also live in Ypsilanti because I want to. I have lived here for a long time though and am under no illusion that it’s going to become a playground for the rich and famous anytime soon and the best we can hope for are many small steps toward a more stable community. I don’t see how turning anyone away on one hand and saying we’re doing everything we can on the other is benefiting anyone. If a fast food restaurant is the only business that wants to open on an available parcel then they should be allowed to open. Maybe as part of their sales agreement they can be mandated to install landscaping or build with certain materials but we cannot afford to turn anybody away.

  16. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    @Burt $3K on a $96k home. “For what??” you ask? For a police force, a fire department, schools, streets, street lights, snow removal, trash/recycle/yard waste, assessment, elections, permits/licensing, park maintenance, ordinance enforcement, clerk services, legal protection for the city, insurance for the city, blight control, a city website/IT, city planning, to pay for retired city employees’ pensions/benefits, etc etc etc.

    What would the city look like without all of those things? Is that someplace you would want to live?

    @Emma I’m sure that if you had bought that beautiful home in Detroit, there would have been a few unanticipated costs that you didn’t mention. I worked in Detroit for years, traveling through Highland Park, daily, to get there so I have seen first hand what living in Detroit looks like. First, there’s the private security guard to watch over your neighborhood. Yes, many neighborhoods have banded together to pay for security. Alternatively, there’s the home alarm. And that pesky insurance. There’s the cost of driving half an hour to get to a grocery store. There’s the unquantifiable cost of calling 9-1-1 and having no one come to your aid. They don’t even send out a police officer unless someone has been shot. That is not an exaggeration. Thank goodness you don’t have kids, because Detroit isn’t a great place to raise kids. Don’t take them to the parks, for example. The grass hasn’t been mowed and they might get shot.

    Detroit used to be a great city. Then everyone left. Now it’s not. That’s why you can get an amazing home for such a great price. It’s not the high taxes, it’s the high cost of not having safety and infrastructure that should have helped you decide not to buy there. We don’t need to end up like that, and we won’t if we can keep our infrastructure intact.

  17. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    @Emma

    This is about more than Water Street. This is about the stability of the city. No one will come to fix up those abandoned houses, even for only $100/month if the city that those houses are in is unsafe and unstable. Again, I point to Detroit. You can buy houses for $1.00 in Detroit, but no one is buying. Why? Because Detroit is not safe and is not stable, no matter how many fast food restaurants it has.

  18. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    @ Erika:
    from Brian Robb’s response above:
    “I also need to mention that even with a income tax and 15 mils of property tax increases, we’ll still need to cut another $700K from the FYE 2015 budget, so don’t let anyone convince you that these ballot measures are going to “maintain” services at their current levels. These ballot measures are going to allow us to only cut $1.4M out of the budget over the next three years.”

    These taxes are only going to be a short term “fix” with anecdotal evidence to indicate they will make Ypsilanti less desirable to prospective home and business owners.

    What do you suggest we do to avoid disintegrating into this lawless society of high insurance rates, private security guards, 30 minute drives to the grocery store, random shootings and uncut lawns you’re describing? Obviously the tax increases will not be enough.

  19. Burt Reynolds
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    @Erika

    I know where my taxes go. My question was somewhat sarcastic. Ypsi has a high tax rate given what the city/twp offers. Not bagging on it. Just a truth. I live here.

  20. anonymous
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Burt, I just saw your “Come Live in the Township” ad. It’s very nice.

    http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2035/2200720784_bd75ed4d4d_m.jpg

  21. Burt Reynolds
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Anon. Loni was uber pissed about that, but we persevered.

  22. Dan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    This is a mind boggling quote

    “Now that may sound like a very significant tax increase, but the good news is we’re expecting the value of your home to drop 18%.”

    Seriously, the City already takes in over 30 mils for it’s operations alone, and you guys are talking about adding 15 more? And some people here are ok with that? They should build Torch and Pitchfork Wholesalers on Water Street.

    Good lord.

  23. Demetrius
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    ” … but the good news is we’re expecting the value of your home to drop 18%.”

    Classic Brian Robb.

  24. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    @Emma

    I suggest that we vote YES! on the ballot proposal.

  25. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    “Seriously, the City already takes in over 30 mils for it’s operations alone, and you guys are talking about adding 15 more? And some people here are ok with that? ”

    Here’s the thing that you are overlooking: that 15 mils is not negotiable. The Water Street debt is bond holder debt, and the F & P pension is contractual debt. Those 15 mils will be paid out, whether they come from the general fund or from new millage income. So, we can slash the general fund 50% so that we can pay these things or we can pay for them with more mils. A 50% slash would destroy the city.

    The mils may sound high, but the property value basis for those mils has shrunk so dramatically that the amount of money coming in is not enough to maintain the services that still cost the same. Also, so many people have kept their property taxes to the rate of inflation with Prop A that many households do not pay the full millage amount.

    Brian Robb’s comment points to the fact that as property values drop, so do actual tax fees, based on millage.

    If you read all of the rest of Brian Robb’s commentary and you still don’t see what the situation is, I don’t know what else to say. We will lose our police force, our fire department, our parks services, etc. How can we come back from that?

  26. Dan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    @Erika,

    How does every other surrounding community manage to get by without 45 mills? The twp manages with 11.9 mills. AA manages on 16.5 mills. Pittsfield manages on only 6 mills.

    The problem lies in that the City ALREADY “manages” on 31.5 mills. much much more than the rate of the surrounding communities. At some point you need to ask yourself (and your officials) why the city cant balance a budget. Asking your neighbor for more and more money every month isnt the solution to paying your bills.

  27. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    It’s overly simplistic to make those comparisons. Apples to oranges. First, the city has over 30% of its land mass taken up by non-profits (mainly EMU, which doesn’t pay taxes now but *would* with an income tax). Second, the townships don’t provide the same services that the city does. Third, millages are based on property *value* and I’m sure you know that the property values in the townships and in AA are not comparable to the ones in the city. You know that what you are saying is inherently flawed, and it’s not helpful.

    We need to move past this same tired rhetoric and SAVE THIS CITY. With this move in the right direction for Ypsi, toward stability, we can do it now. So, let’s do it now!

  28. Glen S.
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    You really need to read some of the more thoughtful comments on the other threads related to this topic.

    I’ll summarize:

    1. We’ve experienced an unprecedented loss of industrial (property) tax base.
    2. We’ve also suffered an unprecedented drop in residential (taxable) values.
    3. We’ve already cut all “non-essential” programs and services.
    4. Water Street is a factor, but only ONE factor in the overall crisis.
    5. Increasingly, our debt consists of “legacy” costs over which we have no control.
    6. Ypsilanti taxpayers are liable for this debt, even if the City goes into “receivership,” “bankruptcy,” or gets a State-appointed Emergency Manager.
    7. Michigan’s system for funding local government is completely broken.
    8. Nobody in either Washington D.C., nor Lansing is coming to our rescue anytime soon.
    9. Even if the economy improves, or the housing market rebounds, it will still take decades to recover the lost taxable value.
    10. Our City Council — including a majority who campaigned against additional taxes — now seems to agree that these two measures are our last, best hope.
    11. Nobody in Ypsilanti is looking to be “bailed out” by Ypsilanti Township, or any other township. (Although we definitely remain interested in co-operative arrangements that can benefit both communities.)
    12. Nobody in Ypsilanti is thrilled by the prospect of new taxes — but many are starting to see the need for them — to maintain core services like Police and Fire, and to keep our City financially (and politically) viable.

  29. Dan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    @Glen (and Erika)

    1,2) Pitts and the Twp both have seen the same trajectory in property values (both residential and industrial). AA is an anomaly. The twp has lost the willow run plant, and residential homes have had the same loss as the city.

    3) as pointed out here several times, you consider “non-essential” to be much different than most other tiny cities. Your police and fire forces are much larger than needed. You may not like that reality, but you cant afford what you have. I’d like a house with an indoor pool, but I cant afford one. So i dont have one.

    4) yes, it is only ONE factor. Thats a problem, isnt it? Why do you have so many poor decisions and “legacy” costs. Thats a big part of my point.

    5) same as #4. Poor decisions arent fixed by continuing to hand over money to people that refuse to learn their lessons.

    6) an EFM would get rid of the F&P pension. They wouldnt block development because it doesnt fit with the delusional urban hotspot image the city seems to have of itself.

    7) the twp and other communities are funded the same way as the city. And besides, why are your problems the problems of people in the UP or Traverse City and the like?

    8) Exactly. And they wont be coming to your rescue in 5 or 7 years or whatever when you are being asked to pay even more

    9) thats why you have to start living on a balanced budget.

    10) your city council has agreed to make you by far the highest taxed municipality in the county. by a wide margin. And even so, you are looking an EFM in the face. Why do you think they are doing a good job?

    11) glad to hear that

    12) this is the part that i wholeheartedly disagree with. First of all, many residents, especially those that frequent this fine blog, seem to think they are paying for “country club” services as someone here posted recently. Even calling it a “luxury tax” they are happy to pay to have a community pool and such. Second of all, the gist of my previous point was that at some point, you have to say “we’re taxed enough, already.” You are already at the state maximum in specific property mills. They have already added on 12 extra mills in the form of city specific programs.

    Why you people think that a 20,000 person (8000 household) community in 4.5 sq miles of land needs such an enormous budget is what I dont get. Your idea of “essential service” is not actually in reality.

  30. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Another point regarding the idea that the income tax will dissuade business from coming to or staying in Ypsi: A smart business owner will want their business housed in a place that is safe and stable. A smart business owner will understand that there are costs associated with locating in any community, but there are benefits too. Ypsi has plenty to offer businesses that far outweigh a 1% income tax. I think people that are using this “anecdotal” evidence aren’t giving real business owners credit for being able to see the forest for the trees. Again, it’s tired rhetoric used as a red herring to mislead people into opposing this much needed source of revenue.

    We need to move toward stability so we can attract business and residents and we need to do it NOW.

  31. Demetrius
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    Who are you calling “you people?”

  32. Dan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    those of you city clickers without the natural warmth provided by a mullet. “Cold necks,” if you will

  33. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    @ Erika
    “Second, the townships don’t provide the same services that the city does”.

    Which services are these?

    I’ve lived in Ypsi. township and the only differences I’ve experienced are that the Township recycling was picked up biweekly and my water bill was half as much there (as were my taxes). Plus the township includes a nice note about everything they’re doing to help the community deal with blight and other issues with every water bill. I have to go to a non city blog to find out what’s happening here.

  34. Erika
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    The truth of the matter is that people that have chosen to live in the city have made that choice for a reason, and we deserve to be able to decide what level of police protection, fire department protection, and other services are right for us. Monday morning quarterbacking from out in the township isn’t going to solve anything for us, in the city.

    Legacy costs such as pensions for our city employees are ethically and legally our responsibility to pay. Those employees fulfilled their end of the contract – they fought our fires, they protected our homes. We certainly are not going to turn our backs on them as they retire. That’s not what Ypsi is about. That’s not who we are. We come together to fund things that matter to us – like the Rutherford Pool, which is not tax payer supported, but community supported. We come together as a community to protect each other, to look out for our common interests. We are looking into the future to protect our history. We know that we want more for our citizens than short-sighted plans for our one chance at re-developing real estate in our city’s center.

    This is our chance to start on a path to recovery and we are going to do whatever we need to do to make this happen. We have too much on the line now.

  35. Emma
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    @ Erika

    “The truth of the matter is that people that have chosen to live in the city have made that choice for a reason, and we deserve to be able to decide what level of police protection, fire department protection, and other services are right for us. Monday morning quarterbacking from out in the township isn’t going to solve anything for us, in the city.”

    OK, we get it, you are PRO city income tax but all of your cheer leading does not help anyone understand how other communities provide basically the same services for less or why anyone should be asked to contribute more to a system that is admittedly unsustainable. This tax is a short term solution. How are you contributing anything more than these “armchair quarterbacks”?

    I live in the city, where do I go to choose my preferred levels of public protection?

  36. Dan
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t suggesting that bailing on the pensions is something I would do, just responding to Glens point that and EFM couldn’t change the debt issues.

  37. EOS
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Dan,

    You’re a breath of fresh air. I look forward to reading every one of your comments. Try not to get discouraged – keep up the good work!

  38. Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I think Mark Maynard should get some kind of an award for being one of the only places to find Ypsi news and in-depth discussions on Ypsi politics. Some cities going through these kinds of issues have little news and no city blogger.

    I may not agree with Mr. Maynard’s political beliefs, but I want to give him kudos for making a real effort to get the public talking and thinking about these things.

    Nice work.

  39. Eel
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I cry myself to sleep at night just thinking of the towns without a Mark Maynard.

  40. Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Emma, you need to read what people are saying. The difference between the basic township operating millage and the cities is about 10 mils. That is caused by two primary factors, 1) The cities legacy cost. The township does not have a police force–no retirees to support there. It’s fire department is only now generating folks with sufficient seniority to retire. As the township has grown over the last two decades the number of employee it has has grown substantially and they will be facing growing legacy costs into the future. 2) A substantially higher tax base, though that is shrinking for some of the same reasons as the cities (DE-industrialization, collapsing housing values). The townships basic political practice over the years has been to externalize cost and to get the county or the city to pick up as much of the cost of providing services as possible. For decades we have subsidized the policing of the township. Its failure to provide sufficient policing has turned some of areas of the township into nearly lawless areas. The open prostitution along E. Michigan avenue (just one example, but I can give you others ) requires the City to expend resources (through joint operations with the county) that should be going to the city. The property owners of the township regularly shit upon the non-property owning residences of the township. No mass transit, though those living in the township between AnnArbor and Ypsi get the benefit of our mass transit (we pay an additional millage so all of the cities residence can be mobile) and poor township folks regularly walk into the city so they can catch a bus. The township has a nice network of parks–but the township charges both residence and non-residence usage and parking fees. It is the externalizing of costs again. Of course if you do not use the parks you can escape the cost. Of course where most of the townships poor folks live, there is hardly any park land. You might also notice that the township provides no public housing, and those areas of the township (NE part of the township) where most of the poorer class lives has the fewest township resources devoted to it.

    As our home values continue to collapse (they have fallen over 50% since 07 and will probably fall another 30%) the township will be hit harder than the city (the housing bubble was much more apparent in the township). Drive through east willow some time. Almost every other home is now bank or real estate owned. Check out zillow. You can now buy a 300000 plus township home not far from Lincoln High for $148000.

    The Water Street plan was an attempt at addressing the Cities long term problems of contained geography and limited resources. It failed. It was probably the last best chance for our city. From here on out were simply attempting to slow the decline.

    And good luck selling your house in the city or the township. They say the state’s population decline has stabilized, but I think that is more because people can’t sell, and are caught in their underwater home with no way out. Homes selling at 50% of what they sold for 10 years ago are on the market for a year with no takers. Declining incomes mean there are fewer qualified buyers, and everyone who walks away from their underwater home today is probably never going to get a new home mortgage– further reducing the pool of potential buyers.

    We can either adopt the dog eat dog and leave the week behind attitude of the township government (and the folks who support that clique) , or we can continue to make Ypsi as decent a place for all residences as we can afford.

  41. Erika
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    How is it that the townships can manage on much lower millage rates?

    Here’s how:
    First and foremost: they’ve got 30 square miles of land to our 4, so they have a lot more taxable land area to balance that their non-taxables. Also, 40% of our 4 sq miles is covered by non tax payers (EMU, city parks, non-profits, churches and yes, Water St) and yet we still have to serve 100% of our land area.

    EMU would start contributing to the city’s service costs if we passed the income tax proposal.

    Also, the state tax system rewards new development over re-development, so townships benefit because they have open land to develop.

    Second, regarding services/costs that the city has the the township doesn’t:
    – the city has FAR more retired employees to support because it had more employees in the past, when the townships were basically just farmland. Our history of service is a legacy cost, compounded by rising health care costs for retirees. The townships will face that as they, and their employees, get older too.

    – infrastructure costs are higher when that infrastructure is older and has been used for many years. You could move from town to town to outrun the cost of aging infrastructure, I suppose, but otherwise you have to pay for updating. Some people like living in cities with history and character, and with that comes some extra cost for updating.

    – the city has a higher density which creates higher costs for things that people use like sidewalks and roads, streetlights, etc.

    – the city has a dangerous and vacant building ordinance that is enforced, and other blight ordinances that are necessary due to the higher density of population.

    – the city has a Downtown Development Authority – because we have a downtown. A busy, active, entertaining, enjoyable downtown. One of the reasons people like to live in cities.

    – the city fire department has to maintain equipment that is able to service the tallest buildings on town – on EMU’s campus.

    – the city pays a little more (but not much more) to maintain its *own police force*, one which is under local control, is based within the city so it is close in proximity with prompt response times, and one that is specifically trained/adapted to an urban environment.

    – I’m sure there are other items to consider, but this is a start.

  42. Erika
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Also, by the way:
    The Twp contracts with the County Sheriff for about the same number of full-time deputies as we have officers — but they have twice the population and much more area to cover with that.

    Add in the difference in departmental culture / style — Ypsi PD is really pretty awesome at the “community policing” / preventative approach, where the Sheriff’s Department in Ypsi Twp is much more about waiting for a call to come in, respond, repeat.

    One quantifiable result of this is clearance rates: Ypsi PD solves twice as many of its crimes as the Ypsi Twp detachment of the County Sheriff. http://www.annarbor.com/news/clearance-rates/

  43. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    wobblie, you keep spreading misinformation.

    The township operates on 11.9 mills. The city operates on 31.5 mills. This isn’t difficult mathematically, but that is NOT a 10 mill difference. it is 19.6.

    I dont know why you keep posting that. It’s the 3rd time you’ve claimed that. it’s simply false.

  44. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Dan: “Your police and fire forces are much larger than needed.”

    Maybe so.

    For fun, I Bing-ed for “police per capita”, and came up with this interesting wiki page:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_size_of_police_forces

    It seems that the global median is about 300 police per 100,000 pop. If ypsi has 35 police for 20,000 pop, that’s equal to 175 per 100,000 — somewhat over half the global median.

    However, I’m not sure how they counted “police”. Did they include the entirety of ALL police forces operating in the given area? In the case of ypsi, that would have to include county, state and federal forces, in addition to just locals.

    That wiki page lists police per 100K for many countries. Among the lowest:
    China — 120
    Finland — 146
    Haiti — 63
    Iran — 55 (!)
    Norway — 158

    The U.S. is at 233. But again, I don’t know exactly who all they are counting.

    Perhaps we should make like China, or Iran.

    The bigger question is: how many police are truly needed? For what? What do they spend their time doing? If significant amounts of time are being spent on victimless “crime”, or stuff that would be better handled by others (e.g. social workers, or what have you), could the police department’s mandate/behavior be changed to focus on the real essentials, perhaps with a smaller staff?

    Another question: is anyone working on, or does anyone have any ideas about, the possibility of crime prevention at the neighborhood level, not involving the police? There’s probably a world of creative ideas and successful experimental programs out there, if one were to start looking. (Just a guess, but I’ll bet I’m right). The need for police officers could be reduced, perhaps greatly.

    Here’s an idea, not a new one:

    http://dailyfreepress.com/2012/01/23/guardian-angel-group-dispatches-superheroes-on-local-national-scale/
    Guardian Angel group dispatches superheroes on local, national scale
    Written by Jasper Craven
    Published Jan 23, 2012
    With a crime spike in the Allston-Brighton area, recent reports of theft on South Campus and a “Carsonist” in Allston, safety is on the minds of many crime fighters, including the Guardian Angels.
    “We are extra eyes and ears for law enforcement,” said Jim Manna, chapter leader of the Boston Guardian Angels unit. “We deter crime.”
    The Guardian Angels is an alliance of everyday citizens who volunteer their time and energy to fight crime across America. They have 143 chapters in 17 countries, as well as the Boston area.
    snip
    Since the Guardian Angels began 33 years ago, they have won the support of New York Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and have even added a CyberAngels sector to safeguard the Internet, according to the Guardian Angels website.
    Their school safety programs are even required in New York and New Jersey

  45. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Wobblie: “Its failure to provide sufficient policing has turned some of areas of the township into nearly lawless areas. The open prostitution along E. Michigan avenue (just one example, but I can give you others ) requires the City to expend resources”

    As I was saying about victimless crimes… is it really necessary to devote (expensive) police officers’ time to ridiculous, antediluvian prostitution-related ordinances?

    Erika: “Ypsi PD is really pretty awesome at the “community policing” / preventative approach”

    Great! Glad to hear it. Maybe it could be still further awesome-ized, and involve neighborhood residents apart from the police.

  46. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Here is an interesting background read that might be relevant to this discussion, from Charles Hugh Smith. Note: MIGHT be relevant. I have no idea how any of this squares with Ypsilanti in particular.

    http://www.oftwominds.com/blogoct09/criminalizing-poverty10-09.html

    Criminalizing Poverty For Profit: Local Government’s New Debtors Prisons (October 20, 2009)

    Local government is desperate for new funding but doesn’t dare tap the wealthy. So they’re busily criminalizing poverty and filling new Debtor’s prisons.

    Correspondent Jeff Ray sent in this story Milking the Poor: One Family’s Fall Into Homelessness (The Atlantic) which is representative of the trend in local government to criminalize poverty for its own enrichment.

    Here’s the deal. Local government has grown fat in a decade of gargantuan capital gains and real rising real estate taxes. Employees pulling down over $100,000 each are legion, as are public retirees pulling down over $100,000 a year in pension payments. Local government has added 15% more employees even as population grew by a meager 3%. (The numbers may vary in your area but the percentages won’t.)

    Now the seven fat years are over and local government is not liking the seven lean years. Now that housing has plummeted, so have the tax rolls; capital gains have dried up and even sales tax revenues are crashing. Despite the usual bleatings of hope, the chances of tax revenues recovering are slightly lower than the proverbial snowball’s chance of remaining frozen in Heck.

    Foreclosures: ‘Worst three months of all time’ Despite signs of broader economic recovery, number of foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter – a sign the plague is still spreading.

    Meanwhile, a perfect storm is gutting public pension funds. More Pain for State’s Taxpayers, Cities: CALPERS losses $50B. In order for the State amd local governments of California to meet their future pension obligations (paid by CALPERS, the massive public pension fund), they need to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars more in coming years, even as their revenues are falling.

    The conclusion that the medical and pension benefits which were promised in the fat years are no longer payable is anathema to public unions and managerial staff alike, and so the machinery of local government has geared up to stripmine the citizens like a giant trawler stripmines the sea: parking tickets have been jacked up to $60 or more, traffic violations are in the hundreds of dollars, speed traps abound, and as noted in the top story, fees for “crimes” like driving without auto insurance now cost more than the insurance itself.

    And gosh forbid if you don’t pay on time–the penalties double the original fine and then go up from there.

    Is there anything more pernicious, malicious and immoral that this criminalization of poverty to engorge the coffers of local government? If John Q. Citizen defaults on his credit card, he might have to endure harrassing phone calls from bill collectors. But worst case, he can unplug his phone or cancel that number and get another phone number. Fortunately, the bank cannot have him imprisoned (yet).

    But local government isn’t quite as kind and gentle as the bankers. Mess with their revenues (i.e. don’t pay the hefty fines they levy) and they’ll haul your carcass into court and then into jail (can’t make bail? Too bad. You’re a full-blown criminal now.)

    Exactly what is the difference between racking up $1,000 in fines off an innocuous violation and being imprisoned for lack of payment and a 19th century-era Debtors prison?

    Isn’t this part of the reason why the Parisian mobs tore down the Bastille?

    Does this make any sense at all, arresting people who can’t pay their nonsensically stupendous fines and penalties just so government employees don’t have to take a cut in pay and benefits? When did a ticket go from $50 to $300 and up? And why? Does anyone think the cost leaped up “for the public good”?

    Is getting nailed for a ticket you can’t pay really a deterrent to being too poor to keep your auto insurance current?

    […snip… continues at the link……]

  47. Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Dan–I am looking at my Summer city tax bill. I pay 25.34430 mils. for the general operation of the city. For some reason Emma above is only paying ” CITY 23.34430 ” slightly less than me (I think her’s is a typo, all the rest of her rates match mine). I assume the township residence on Mansfield also are paying a special mil’s for their new street. In total I pay about 5.5 mils to pay off infrastructure improvements–not operating cost.(I suspect the township also has special mils on particular township residence (new streets, sidewalks, law enforcement–don’t you pay a special mil for that, ). The city general fund operating miliage on my tax bill is identified above. No mis-information on the city taxes. I stand correct on the difference between city and township it is more like 12 mils, not 10. Emma has provided an accurate (subject to the one typo) itemized breakdown of city taxes. Why don’t you provide the source for your 31.5 mils? It sure does not jive with what I am actually charged and pay.

  48. Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Alan2012,
    I am all with you about “victimless” crime. But having street walkers and drug dealers working the street in front of your business, makes it no longer “victimless”. Lots of people will simply choose not to come to my business if they get solicited every time they get out of their car. It is not that they are competing with me for customers, they are driving them away.

    “Red light”districts, or legal bordelo’s would help. The township had an adult entertainment district over by the YCUA offices on State Rd. (don’t know if it is still zoned that way or not) None of our strip joints ever bothered to open up there though.

  49. Brainless
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Thus quoth Dan:
    “5) same as #4. Poor decisions arent fixed by continuing to hand over money to people that refuse to learn their lessons.”
    – This is straight-up wisdom. I can’t believe that this isn’t the #1 topic of discussion. I don’t trust a single one of theses idiots with a dime, much less a 1% tax. You had our money; you blew it. You don’t deserve more.

    So sayeth Erika:
    “and we deserve to be able to decide what level of police protection, fire department protection, and other services are right for us.”
    – This is one of the more bizarre theories of governance that I’ve heard, but by all means, decide these things for yourself. Do not decide them for me.

    And again:
    “and we deserve to be able to decide what level of police protection, fire department protection, and other services are right for us. ”
    – Exactly how much. I hear something like “EMU will now pay” over and over again. Has someone evaluated how much exactly?

  50. Demetrius
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    @ Alan2102

    Middle-class teachers, police officers, firefighters, and account clerks who worked hard their whole lives with the understanding they would have some degree of financial stability (and perhaps some decent health insurance) in their senior years are NOT the cause of this problem.

    It is shameful how the right-wing is always warning about “Class Warfare,” yet always seem to be the first to try to pit the Middle Class against the Poor.

  51. Brainless
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Wrong quote:
    “EMU would start contributing to the city’s service costs if we passed the income tax proposal.”

  52. Brainless
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    “Middle-class teachers, police officers, firefighters, and account clerks who worked hard their whole lives with the understanding they would have some degree of financial stability (and perhaps some decent health insurance) in their senior years are NOT the cause of this problem.”

    Uh, teachers aren’t the issue here. They don’t work for the city.

    I love this, “the understanding they would have some degree of financial stability”. Yeah, the rest of us just keep paying and shitting our pants over the future so some small group can have a privileged retirement. Sound fair.

  53. Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    this is a useful link for those who want to see the actual taxes for anywhere in the county. http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/equalization/links.html#city

    For a home in the township with the same taxable value as my home in the city I pay approx. double for general operations . The fundamental taxing difference between city and township is we have fewer than half as many folks as the township and no land base to expand into. So again, as an example I pay roughly twice as much as I would if I lived in the township to the Library authority (this unit of government is separate from the city and can’t be said to be caused by city officials incompetence) . It is a simple economic fact, the cost per resident/ home owner for a “unit” of service is going to cost us more each because there are fewer of us to share the cost.

    That is the primary appeal of the income tax. It will provide a greater pool of tax payers to help support our services.

  54. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    wobblie,

    You can just decide to ignore the other 7 mills you pay for street and sanitation. The reason those are separate millages is because the city has already reached the state mandated maximum for general operations. Thats why they have to keep asking you for separate millages. If they could raise your general fund millage to 50, they would. Believe that.

  55. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie: “having street walkers and drug dealers working the street in front of your business, makes it no longer ‘victimless'”

    No. Still victimless in the sense that I meant it. You’re talking about commercial (etc.) zoning, a different issue. As you point out yourself: “‘Red light’ districts, or legal bordelo’s would help”. Yo. If there’s a zoning issue, it can be solved without hiring more police officers. Right?

  56. Burt Reynolds
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Remember when Mark used to make posts about hookers and rubbers in his yard. I miss that.

  57. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    here are the millage rates for both twp and city (2010 versions). You can clearly see that the “city total” is over 31.5 mills. 2011 may be slightly different, but the general points are the same.

    https://cityofypsilanti.ewashtenaw.org/services/fiscal_services/treasurer_division/2010_Millage_Rates

    http://ytown.org/government/treasurers-office/2010-tax-rate

  58. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    wobblie

    “So again, as an example I pay roughly twice as much as I would if I lived in the township to the Library authority”

    this is also not true. City residents pay 2.1574 mills for the library as part of their summer taxes. Twp residents pay 0.65 mill to the library as part of our summer tax, BUT we pay 1.5074 mills to the library as part of our winter tax bill. That equals a total of… wait for it… 2.1574 mills to the library for the year. Exactly the same as the city.

  59. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    you can also see the 31.5 vs 11.9 in a PDF directly from the website you linked.

    http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/equalization/2010-washtenaw-county-apportionment-report.pdf

  60. Erika
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    The people who live in the city will be the ones voting to decide how much policing and fire protection they feel is necessary to maintain a good quality of life within the city. The folks in the townships can decide the same for themselves, in the township.

    A vote against increased revenue is a vote for dramatically lower levels of police and fire protection. A vote of YES for the new revenue is a vote to keep police and fire protection levels higher.

    There is nothing bizarre about wanting to decide whether we have Detroit style police protection (ie you are on your own, buy a gun) and fire protection (ie you are basically on your own, pay for good insurance and stock up on fire extinguishers) or a higher level of protection, responsiveness, community involvement, coordination with neighborhood watch groups, etc.

    I am willing to pay a little extra to continue to feel safe where I have chosen to live, that is my choice. I see that as a critical quality of life concern.

  61. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Demetrius: “Middle-class teachers, police officers, firefighters, and account clerks who worked hard their whole lives with the understanding they would have some degree of financial stability (and perhaps some decent health insurance) in their senior years are NOT the cause of this problem.”

    It depends on what you mean by “some degree”. Many public employees have been given more-than-generous (read: outrageous) pension plans, with benefits well into six figures.

    As for me, and millions like me, I would like to look forward to plans with benefits very modestly into five figures. It would even be OK with us if the first digit of those five figures were limited to “1”.

    “It is shameful how the right-wing is always warning about “Class Warfare,” yet always seem to be the first to try to pit the Middle Class against the Poor.”

    I agree. That is shameful. But the left wing must sooner or later wake up to the reality that the sum of all the entitlements (including the larded pension plans and fabulous increase in medical costs that developed over the last several decades) cannot be serviced. The younger generation — the people out in the Occupy encampments — have begun to realize this. They speak of the “1%”, which is very attractive for the obvious reason that it includes almost everyone, but the reality is that there multiple strata within the “99%”, with huge disparities, all facing a future in which many of the promises cannot possibly be kept. There is a huge difference between me, living on 12 grand a year and contemplating a $600 monthly SS check somewhere down the road, and some university professor or non-profit CEO or police chief pulling down $200K, and looking forward to a $125K (plus bennies) retirement. Relative to me, those guys ARE the 1%, even if you call them “middle class”, and even if they fall outside of the 1% as typically defined.

    This was all easy to predict, even 20 years ago, and certainly 10 years ago. We went on a promise binge, and promised much more than can be delivered. We are going to be struggling with this painful reality for decades. It has only just begun.

    Having said that, I’d like to add that many pundits make the error of lumping social security in with all the other entitlements, particularly medical. The social security system is fine, and sustainable for a very long time, if not forever. What is NOT sustainable is the medical/academic/industrial complex ($2.4 trillion/year, and growing faster than inflation), combined with the military/industrial/security complex. The right-wing deficit-hawk types that you (and I) hate are WRONG when they talk about the social security system being (soon, or now) bust. And of course they never mention their precious war machine (“defense”) budget, and anti-terrror/security/spying budgets, which are a key part of this discussion. So, I agree with you that they are assholes. But they are also — sorry to say — expressing an important portion of the truth. They are right about the general picture of unsustainable expenditures and un-keepable promises.

  62. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    A couple more C H Smith rants that might be of interest…

    http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2011/07/promises-that-cannot-be-kept.html
    Wednesday, July 06, 2011
    The Promises That Cannot Be Kept
    The government’s promises, for pensions and healthcare and everything else, cannot be kept. We as a nation will eventually have to have a truthful conversation about that reality.
    snip
    The problem is that the benefit costs are not static; they’re constantly moving ever higher because the programs are expanding 3, 4 or 5 times faster than the real economy. Here is a chart of local government healthcare and pension costs. Does this look remotely sustainable?
    [go to link for image]

    http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmay10/Fed-bankrupted-pensions05-10.html
    How the Fed Pushed the Nation’s Pension Plans–and Local Government–into Insolvency (May 24, 2010)
    A key player in the nation’s unfolding pension debacle is rarely fingered–The Federal Reserve.
    If you reckon state and local government have created their own guaranteed-to-go-bankrupt pension problem, you’d be half-right: the Federal Reserve’s policies of the past two decades are the crumbling foundation beneath the nation’s unsustainable pension plans.
    Here’s a precis of how the nation’s local government pension plans were set to implode….

  63. Demetrius
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    @ Alan2102

    There are definitely examples of folks who gamed the system, double-, or even triple-dipped, an ended up with fat pensions after relatively few years of service. And where this has happened, it should be pointed out, and dealt with.

    But, like the “other” 1%, these people are the exception, not the rule.

    By attempting to make middle-class workers and retirees the “bad guys,” you are, be default, arguing in favor of dragging down wages and benefits for millions of hard-working folks, destroying retirement (and health) security for millions of seniors, and more generally, making America a poorer, dumber, more desperate place to live.

    If you work full time (or are only able to work part-time) and make 12K a year, I’m sorry (truly). But, instead of trying to drag everyone else down, why not fight for political and economic changes that would (could) lift everyone — including yourself – up?

  64. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    @Erika,

    “A vote against increased revenue is a vote for dramatically lower levels of police and fire protection. A vote of YES for the new revenue is a vote to keep police and fire protection levels higher.”

    Why do you think it is that EVERY single time a “revenue” issue comes up, the city threatens to cut police and fire resources? Take a wild guess.

  65. Demetrius
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    @ Dan

    “Why do you think it is that EVERY single time a “revenue” issue comes up, the city threatens to cut police and fire resources? Take a wild guess.”

    Because those two items make up about 2/3 of the City’s General Fund budget.

    How’s that?

  66. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    this is also woefully incorrect.

    “It is a simple economic fact, the cost per resident/ home owner for a “unit” of service is going to cost us more each because there are fewer of us to share the cost.”

    what you fail to realize is, that if your community has less than half of the residents, you need less than half of the services. Of course, if you want police and fire protection at levels that are more than communities that have more than twice the population, you will pay much much more. But why do you think you NEED that much service?

    It’s like saying you want to have the electricity to service 3 homes, but you only have one home. Why would you think you should pay the same as someone that only uses the electricity to service one home?

  67. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    @Demetrius

    2/3rd of the Ypsi city general fund budget is over 13 mills. And that is excluding the 12+ mills the city is levying on you for pensions, sanitation, and street improvements, even though those millages are only there because the city has reached the state mandated maximum on general fund mills..

    So even with those numbers, the 8000 household city of Ypsi it levying more tax than the entire millage rate (11.9) of the entire 20000 household township just for police and fire.

    why do you guys not see a problem with those numbers?

  68. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    and regardless of all of the other conversations in this post, this is all you need to know about your elected council:

    “I also need to mention that even with a income tax and 15 mils of property tax increases, we’ll still need to cut another $700K from the FYE 2015 budget, so don’t let anyone convince you that these ballot measures are going to “maintain” services at their current levels. These ballot measures are going to allow us to only cut $1.4M out of the budget over the next three years.”

    1% income tax. 15 mill increase in prop taxes. AND THEY ARE STILL GOING TO CUT SERVICES.

  69. Erika
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I don’t even need to guess.

    I know that the increased revenue is needed to fund police and fire because there is very little, if anything, left that can but cut other than police and fire. Land constraints on growth, Prop A, and Headlee amendment have capped revenue. Most of our other expenses are LEGALLY REQUIRED by city charter, by state law, by contract or by bond holder agreements. Some other items are completely self-sustaining and don’t need to be cut because they don’t add cost. There is NO WHERE ELSE TO CUT.

    That was the whole reason for this entire discussion – me asking what specifically would be cut if the proposals don’t pass. Look at Brian Robb’s answer again. It shows that the things that can be cut have been. That just leaves police and fire.

    It isn’t some sort of conspiracy. We need to do this and we need to do this NOW!

    *** Vote YES! to SAVE YPSILANTI! ***

  70. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Demetrious: “There are definitely examples of folks who gamed the system, double-, or even triple-dipped…” etc.

    I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about over-compensation, not by virtue of fraud or theft.

    D: “But, like the “other” 1%, these people are the exception, not the rule.”

    You might be right, but I don’t know. What is your basis for that statement? Maybe fraud, theft and gaming the system in these sectors are much more widespread than you or I imagine. They are certainly much more widespread in other sectors (finance, science, etc.) than anyone might have imagined, say, 20 years ago.

    D: “By attempting to make middle-class workers and retirees the ‘bad guys'”

    They’re not bad, quite. They’re mostly just unconscious.They’re grabbing the swag that is offered them. They don’t question it, and that seems to be typical behavior of humans in acquisitive, materialistic and capitalistic societies. However, at this late date, and given all the risks (e.g. global warming) that have been so thoroughly aired, unconscious behavior is becoming less and less excusable.

    And, you do not define “middle class”, and you never defined “some degree of financial stability” (your phrase), after I asked you.

    What if I said I needed $400,000 per year to achieve “some degree of financial stability”? Would you have a problem with that? Why? How about $300,000?

    D: “you are, be default, arguing in favor of dragging down wages and benefits for millions of hard-working folks”

    Depends on which folks you are talking about. I’m all in favor of very high salaries for hard-working folks. VERY high. Perhaps up to some extreme level like $80K or $100K/year, toward the end of a career. But nothing in the stratosphere above that is justifiable, and yes, for that crowd I AM in favor of dragging down wages and benefits — and I hope you are, too. No globally and environmentally conscious person, with sensitivity to social justice, could advocate anything more liberal than that. The per capita GDP for planet earth is about $10K. As such, $20-30K is a generous range; my suggested ceiling of $100K is on the border of extravagant. What makes you think anyone deserves even that much?
    I would have a hard time justifying it, if you pressed me.

    I’m hardly alone in this, btw. The prominent philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer has suggested a voluntary developed-world cap of $35K per year. Which is not surprising. As I said, any reasonably conscious and aware person would come to a similar conclusion. The problem of wealth inequality is not primarily an issue having to do with billionaires and centi-millionaires. It is an issue having to do with profligate “middle” classes in the developed world — the six-column income crowd. They are the ones who are hogging the resources and destroying the planet, right along with the (conventionally-defined) “1%”.

  71. Emma
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    @Wobblie

    That was a typo. The correct number is 25.344300.

  72. Demetrius
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    @ alan2102

    Sustainability and learning to live with less are laudable goals, but they need to be approached in a thoughtful way — not by pitting the poor against the middle class.

    Meanwhile, the fact remains that if nothing is done, the City of Ypsilanti will begin running out of money (and thus be forced to reduce essential services, like Police and Fire) within the next few years.

    I really appreciate your desire to make Ypsilanti (which has a median household income of less than $35,000) a “guinea pig” to test your theories about the need for individuals and communities to live with less … but really, I’d be more than happy to see some other community: say, Palm Beach, or Greenwich, or Beverly Hills, or the upper East Side of Manhattan, go first.

  73. alan2102
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    “I really appreciate your desire to make Ypsilanti… as a “guinea pig” to test your theories”

    Huh?

    I did not advance any “theory”, and what I said has nothing necessarily to do with Ypsilanti. (It might, or it might not; that would be for others with more knowledge to judge.)

  74. Elvis Costello
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Okay. Time to correct some misinformation and give clarity to the “golden pension” issue. Firefighters and Police are covered by State Act 345 which sets the rules on pensions. Local contracts may have improvements, if negotiated. The pension is figured on the average salary of three of the last ten years of service multplied by a minimum of 62.5% or a maximum of 75%, depending on local agreements. The pensions were and are meant to be “prefunded” and I am aware that Ypsi Township’s is (or at least was) over 100% funded. YFD firefighters contribute 10% of their pay to the retirement system and YTFD firefighters were contributing 7%, but I believe that figure may be going up. Both the City and Township are required to keep the system funded, but in “flush” years, they may choose not to contribute, or contribute less than the standard contribution. In the past there were departments who allowed unlimited comp time and sick time to be rolled into their pay, boosting their final average compensation, and thus their pension (Ann Arbor was an example of that system, but they no longer have it. A beneficiary of that system was County Commissioner Prater, who was the Fire Marshal of AAFD.) So let’s say a Firefighter retires, made 70k, 75k, and 80k, in his last 10 years and those were his highest three years. The average would be 75k times 75% or 62.5%, earning a retirement of 56, 250 per year. This used to be untaxed in Michigan, but is now taxed at the standard 4,5% (2531.00). The retirement before Fed Tax is 54,000 per year. Now, most Firefighters hire in at 27-30 years old, so they retire at 52-57 years old. How old would you like your firefighters to be, when coming in to drag you out of your burning house, or carrying you out on a cot or stretcher?
    Just as a side note, Teabag Congressman Tim Walberg, who served 16 years in the State Legislature receives a pension from the State of Michigan of $54,503, along with lifetime medical benefits. Former Rep and House Speaker Gary Owen gets a six figure pension for his years in the legislature…
    As far as “overstaffed”…YFD shows up with 5, YTFD shows up with 6. Think that’s enough for your house fire? It’s not how many eventually get there, it’s how many are there in the incipient stage of a fire, before it gets out of control.
    How, how bout that Prince Fielder contract, huh?

  75. Elvis Costello
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, YFD doesn’t participate in Social Security, YTFD does.

  76. Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Elvis, I like the way you write.
    Right you are Dan. Your winter/summer taxes didn’t get forwarded loaded the way the cities were under Engler, so I failed to look at the winter taxes for the library the township pays. In the city we pay all of our library tax at one time.
    I think the city is screwed no matter what we do. We need to be establishing community non-profits to take over any service we want to maintain in the future. An income tax might buy us more time, but it will not pass, too many people and not enough money to go around. A forced consolidation / bankruptcy is perhaps the preferred outcome. Our property values, (both township and city) have fallen 50% and will fall another 30%. If you don[t have at least 50% equity in your home (if you bought pre-08) you are probably underwater. Some of the things we want in the city will be unaffected (?) by a city bankruptcy. Libraries, public transportation (at some level), sanitation, schools (until an EFM is placed over the district–one or two years from now) because we pay special mileages to support those services.

    It is probably the only way we can get out of the liabilities we owe. I don’t know, maybe Elvis does, but I suspect our pensions are guarantied by the PGTF (?), so they will not be totally screwed –but throwing the old folks and probably the young under the bus is probably the only way out of our economic fix. Just be a realist here.

  77. dragon
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Yeah, when the train left the station
    It had two lights on behind
    Whoa, the blue light was my city
    And the red light was my mind

    All my love was in vain

  78. alan2102
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all the great detail, Elvis. Some Day, Some Way, we will have access to all the relevant detail at all times.

    Elvis: “Congressman Tim Walberg, who served 16 years in the State Legislature receives a pension from the State of Michigan of $54,503, along with lifetime medical benefits. Former Rep and House Speaker Gary Owen gets a six figure pension for his years in the legislature”

    Great anecdotes, thanks. That’s exactly the kind of excess that I was talking about – a “golden pension” indeed. $55K/year pension after 16 years service?! Sweet deal, if you can get it (i.e. if you can find some suckers to pay for it).

    Could there possibly be a justification for a SIX-column pension, anywhere, for anyone? I cannot think of any. That’s just plain lard, pure and simple.

    E: “The average would be 75k times 75% or 62.5%, earning a retirement of 56,250 per year”

    A tad pricey, but within the realm of reason.

    E: “most Firefighters hire in at 27-30 years old, so they retire at 52-57 years old. How old would you like your firefighters to be, when coming in to drag you out of your burning house, or carrying you out on a cot or stretcher?”

    What the hell does age have to do with it? Provided they pass the relevant strength and fitness tests, age has nothing to do with it, just like sex or sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.

    27 years at moderately-high pay, and then a liberal pension? Pretty good deal. Not over the line like with your Walberg story, but quite generous.

    E: “As far as “overstaffed”…YFD shows up with 5, YTFD shows up with 6.”

    Up thread, it was mentioned that Ypsi has 20 people in the FD. I don’t know if that number, or your number, is wrong.

    A quick Bing for “firefighters per capita” produced this:
    http://www.dailynorthwestern.com/mobile/city/chicago-evanston-rank-high-in-firefighters-per-capita-1.2575745
    “according to a study conducted by the Chicago News Cooperative…the average for the ten largest U.S. cities was one firefighter for every 922 residents.”

    … i.e. about one per thousand. If Ypsi has a pop of 20,000, then 20 firefighters would be in line with that average. (Just one datapoint; I’m not putting that out as the Ultimate Standard or the last word.)

    BTW, what was the “misinformation” to which you referred? (“…correct some misinformation…”)

  79. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Six state constitutions Have retirement benefit language written in them (Michigan, Alaska, Arizona, Illinois and New York). This means that Retirement benefits are contractual and that they cannot be reduced or “impaired”. However, state retirees sued over the new pension tax, and the State Supreme Court ruled against them. Also, this does not appear to cover retiree health benefits. Ypsilanti Township just changed health care provisions, and those changes applied to retirees as well as current employees.

  80. alan2102
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    What about the possibility of using volunteers to SUPPLEMENT the firefighting staff, and perhaps reduce the number of permanent staff required?

    Volunteer Fire Departments & Firefighters:
    http://www.volunteerfd.org/

    wiki page:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_fire_department

    Links to 500 township or other volunteer fire departments in Michigan:
    http://www.firefightersonline.com/engine/v/michigan.asp

    From the wiki article: “According to the National Fire Protection Association, 71 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.[1]”

    From that article, interesting ideas from international experience:
    “Volunteer fire departments are providing the majority of Germany’s and Austria’s civil protection services, alongside other volunteer organizations… In medium-sized cities and communities, fire departments will often be partially staffed by career firefighters. They ensure the rapid availability of some of the department’s fire apparatus, with the remaining apparatus staffed and brought to the scene of the emergency by volunteers as soon as they arrive at the department.”

    Is anyone looking into this possibility, or thinking about it? If not, why not?

    Seems like Ypsi needs some creative and out-of-the-box thinking in order to survive. That is, if you would call this idea “out of the box”. I mean, if 71% of ALL firefighters in the U.S. are volunteers, then this idea cannot be too freaking far out of the box!

  81. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Alan 2102, you are right about department size. My point is that the minimum manning (daily staffing), is 5 and 6. I can guarantee that those numbers are too small for an effective rescue or fire attack on an apartment house fire or “student apartment house” fire. Also, as you are downtown, take a look at your turn of the century buildings. Note the iron stars or plates on the sides of the buildings? Those are attached to steel or iron rods that run the length of the building, holding the walls together. Now, imagine a fire in that building. The fire gets hot, the steel rod elongates and softens, cold water gets sprayed on it, the steel contracts and the walls collapse. That’s the kind of hazards that 5 are supposed to handle…

  82. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Alan2102, when folks mention volunteers, I always ask…are you ready to do so…are you available for all the training, the runs at all hours, on holidays, etc…?

  83. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Sorry, one more thing. I’m not slamming volunteer departments. Augusta township is a great volunteer department. They have a committed staff who put in numerous hours maintaining their skills.

  84. Demetrius
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    @ Alan2102

    On behalf of all the residents of Ypsilanti, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation for your offer to be the very first to volunteer to fight the next major fire that happens here. Your willingness to take on this task — likely with sub-standard training, and for no pay or benefits — shows an uncommon dedication to your political philosophy.

    Unless, of course … what you’re *really* suggesting is that OTHER PEOPLE (not you) should volunteer to provide emergency response and fight fires in a City that contains a major university campus with several hi-rise dorms; several very large industrial sites with potentially hundreds of highly-toxic substances; and a major expressway on which thousands of trucks hauling millions of gallons of God-knows-what pass through every day … in which case, I guess you’re just another right-wing hypocrite.

  85. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Demetrious, while I may disagree with Alan, that was harsh. We were having a civil discussion. Besides, you never know, Alan may be the first one to volunteer…

  86. Elvis costello
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I would hope so…

  87. alan2102
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Elvis: “Alan2102, when folks mention volunteers, I always ask…are you ready to do so…are you available for all the training, the runs at all hours, on holidays, etc…?”

    Yep. I’d be up for it. I’m large, strong, fit, very healthy, and I would enjoy it. I happen to be a resident of Ann Arbor, however, which would make a difference in some situations. (That might change. I’m considering a move to Ypsi.)

    A LOT of people would be up for it. The world is awash in enthusiastic volunteers, doing good work on numerous fronts. A great book on this subject is Paul Hawkens’ “Blessed Unrest” (bing for it). An inspiring volume.

    And by the way, “volunteer” does not have to mean unpaid. Some reasonable compensation for hours of training and service, or on a per-incident basis, is appropriate and reasonable. But it would be much less than for a full-time career position.

    Demetrius: “On behalf of all the residents of Ypsilanti, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation for your offer to be the very first to volunteer to fight the next major fire that happens here”

    You’re quite welcome, Demmy my friend. It’s my pleasure.

    And yes, in addition to me, I AM suggesting is that other people should volunteer to provide emergency response. I am (almost) certain that there would be plenty of volunteers. Unless Ypsi is too chock-full of self-absorbed lazy asses and cowards who cannot be bothered. Is it? I doubt it. I have more faith than that in the people of Ypsi.

  88. Mark Higbee
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    A volunteer fire department in A CITY? Don’t think that’s been done in decades, at least not well or prudently. Volunteer fire departments can work well for towns or rural areas — but cities pose different challenges. I recommend we avoid scenarios that experience has shown to be ill advised and stick to the usual rule of civilization: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it; and find ways for social needs to be paid for. A city income tax under the present circumstances, with no help coming from the state or feds to address our city’s quickly dropping tax revenue, seems reasonable.

    Civilization does have some costs. Pay them, or revert to an uncivilized state.

  89. Demetrius
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    @ Alan2102

    If you are actually honest about willing to volunteer, I apologize.

    Among the great things about Ypsilanti is that we’ve got an engaged citizenry, and a strong tradition of volunteer-led projects and initiatives. I appreciate that, and I wouldn’t want it to change.

    But, I worry that some folks are proposing to abuse that great volunteer ethic by attempting to replace well-paid (but also, well-trained, and well-equipped) professionals with unpaid (less trained, less-equipped) volunteers — just because they don’t feel a responsibility to have “pay” for the services from which we all benefit.

    I grew up in a very small town that had a volunteer fire department — complete with a loud siren in the center of town that wailed to call the firefighters to duty — so I know in some cases that can be a viable option. Again, I don’t really see this working in a City like Ypsilanti, but maybe Elvis can shed more light on that …

  90. alan2102
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Mark Higbee: “A volunteer fire department in A CITY?”

    Sure. Why not? Volunteers can assist and supplement the career force.

    And what do you mean by “city”?

    Do you fear that volunteers — mere amateurs — would be ineffective in the thriving metropolis of Ypsilanti, peppered as it is with skyscrapers and other huge structures?

    BTW no one suggested an ALL-volunteer force. But I’m sure you knew that.

    MH: “Don’t think that’s been done in decades, at least not well or prudently.”

    Did you read the links I posted? Did you read about Germany’s experience? If not, why not? Why not look into this, instead of dissing it in a knee-jerk manner? If it can be shown to be a bad idea, OK, fine, drop it. But don’t just diss it, reactively.

    I’m no expert (far from it!), but I’m willing to think, and do a bit of research, and then think a bit more, and then write. And maybe even volunteer myself.

    Hey, Mark, what do you think of the Edinburg (TX) model, described below? Edinburg has a population of 77,000, nearly four times that of Ypsi. This department also services a large rural area, surrounding. They have posted on their website detailed annual reports of their activities. I invite you to make a great contribution to this discussion by carefully examining their model and record, determining its weaknesses (if any), and reporting back to us as to how (if at all) their way of doing things could be profitably applied to the Ypsi situation. In doing this, you would be making every bit as much of a contribution as someone who is willing to personally volunteer for fire duty.

    http://www.cityofedinburg.com/fire.php
    Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department
    The fire department responds to over 2000 incidents a year of varying types of calls for service ranging from minor incidents to incidents that require life saving and property preservation. In the fulfillment of our duties, saving lives and protecting property is our priority.
    The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department responds with sixty-seven (67) volunteer firefighters, twelve (12) career firefighters, six (6) fire prevention officers, three (3) Deputy Chiefs and the Fire Chief. Through the leadership of the Fire Chief these personnel man and maintain four (4) fire stations and twenty-one (21) fire apparatus.
    The Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department serves an area of approximately 200 square miles in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The coverage area consists of the City of Edinburg and the surrounding rural areas outside the city limits.

  91. alan2102
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    PS: further regarding this: MH: “Don’t think that’s been done in decades, at least not well or prudently.”

    In the coming years, we are going to have to do a lot of things that have not been done well or prudently (or even at all) in decades. Ypsilanti is hardly unique. More like a canary in the coal mine. Thousands of cities across the U.S. will be facing the same kind of crisis, and grim choices, over the next several decades. Many of them already ARE facing same, but there’s much more to come. The global center of gravity — economic power — is shifting from West to East. It cannot be stopped. The crisis that Ypsilanti is facing is a microcosm of the now-unfolding crisis of the West. We’re going to have to adapt to this overwhelming mega-trend in a hundred ways, and figuring out how to provide adequate fire-fighting service on a modest budget is just one of them. Time to get over those squeamish and adolescent reactions like “volunteer FD in a CITY?”, and instead start thinking and acting like an adult, facing up to hard realities that are upon us. The salad days are over, and it is OK. We’re going to deal with things bravely, creatively, imaginatively, cheerfully, wisely and gracefully. Right? Right! :-)

  92. Glen S.
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Many people think nothing of spending hard-earned cash to buy the latest iPhone, video game, or restaurant meal; yet balk at the idea of having to pay people a living wage to provide vital services that are necessary to maintain a safe, healthy and attractive community.

    Many of those same people see nothing wrong with playing a baseball player nearly $25 Million a year to just play a seasonal game for their amusement; yet think that teachers, police officers, firefighters, and government clerks should work for low wages and no benefits — or, as some have suggested, that they should do it for free.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn how they do things in Edinburg, Texas. This isn’t Texas, this is Michigan, a place that has historically had a large, prosperous middle class — many of whom are dedicated public servants — and many of whom are our friends and neighbors.

    I agree with Mark Higbee: I like civilization, and I’m willing to help pay for it.

  93. Demetrius
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    “The global center of gravity — economic power — is shifting from West to East. It cannot be stopped. The crisis that Ypsilanti is facing is a microcosm of the now-unfolding crisis of the West. We’re going to have to adapt to this overwhelming mega-trend in a hundred ways, and figuring out how to provide adequate fire-fighting service on a modest budget is just one of them. Time to get over those squeamish and adolescent reactions like “volunteer FD in a CITY?”, and instead start thinking and acting like an adult, facing up to hard realities that are upon us.”

    You’re right, the center of economic power IS shifting — but not so much from West to East, as from the bottom 99% to the top 1%. The main reason many states, counties and cities (like Ypsilanti) are struggling is because much of the wealth that used to exist in our neighborhoods and communities has been looted by wealthy elites in their quest to go from just being super-rich, to being *obscenely* rich.

    The fact is this: If corporations and the very wealthy were required to pay even a FRACTION of the taxes they paid only a few decades ago, there would be plenty of money to pay decent wages and benefits to public-sector workers today; as well to provide a decent retirement for retirees. But instead, these powerful interests have used their political influence to demand tax cut, after tax cut, after tax cut — until we have finally reached the stage where many state and local coffers are nearly empty.

    By suggesting that we need to just “adapt” to this “mega-trend,” and “act like an adult” by accepting that communities like Ypsilanti will no longer be able to provide decent wages and benefits to folks who provide some of our most vital (and difficult, and dangerous) public services — people like you are doing nothing less than aiding and abetting the agenda of the 1%.

  94. alan2102
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Glen: “Frankly, I don’t give a damn how they do things in Edinburg, Texas.”

    Well all righty then!

    G: “This isn’t Texas, this is Michigan, a place that has historically had a large, prosperous middle class”

    Past performance does not guarantee future results.

    Things change.

    G: “I agree with Mark Higbee: I like civilization”

    I rather like it, too. And, funny thing, but when I last checked, Germany was a pretty advanced and likeable civilization. But maybe they have sunk into barbarism, since. Gotta go re-check.

  95. alan2102
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Demetrious: “You’re right, the center of economic power IS shifting — but not so much from West to East, as from the bottom 99% to the top 1%.”

    It is Both/And, Demmy. The 1% is richer than ever, AND they have decided to pull up stakes and move East. They see that the economic dynamism, underlaid in part by lower wages, greater energy resources, and younger and educated populations, is now in the East, and that the West is exhausted, aging and staggering under impossible loads of debt, corruption and sky-high cost structures (prominently: medical, and military). Capital is in the process of cutting itself loose from the sinking ship of the West, and moving on to greener pastures. It doesn’t need us anymore. The only way to stop this would be a good old-fashioned Trotsky-style global proletarian revolution, followed by dictatorship of the (global) proletariat and the institution of a new egalitarian global regime. And there are some signs that that might possibly occur. It is not likely, but it is possible. We can always hope.

    D: “The main reason many states, counties and cities (like Ypsilanti) are struggling is because much of the wealth that used to exist in our neighborhoods and communities has been looted by wealthy elites in their quest to go from just being super-rich, to being *obscenely* rich.”

    CORRECT. They’ve been looted, or are in the process of being looted, and the loot (capital) is moving East. Is it a paradox, or is it poetic justice, that we, the beneficiaries of global looting for many decades, are now being looted? Whatever. We danced with the Devil and had our fun, and now the Devil is leaving the party with a younger, sexier mate.

    D: “The fact is this: If corporations and the very wealthy were required to pay even a FRACTION of the taxes they paid only a few decades ago, there would be plenty of money to pay decent wages and benefits to public-sector workers today; as well to provide a decent retirement for retirees. But instead, these powerful interests have used their political influence to demand tax cut, after tax cut, after tax cut — until we have finally reached the stage where many state and local coffers are nearly empty.”

    CORRECT, provided that you’re talking only about the U.S., or U.S. plus the rest of the developed world. There would be plenty of money to pay everyone in the U.S. a much nicer wage.

    The problem is that the wealth and the corporations (in short: capital) are moving away. They’ve BEEN moving away for some years, (witness Detroit, over the last 50 years), and the process is accelerating. How do you propose to stop this? Pass a law forcing capital to stay here? That would be suicidal. That would be the end of the bond market, and the end of the dollar; i.e. catastrophic collapse of the whole system here. Total economic (and probably political and social) collapse.

    Furthermore, there’s an ethical and social justice aspect to this. Do you really want to maintain the global system of depredation and looting that has made and kept us rich — at the expense of everyone else — over the last century?

    The U.S. exists in the context of an entire world, and in that world, even abolishing the corporations and seizing 100% of the wealth of the rich would not provide plenty of money to pay everyone U.S.-style wages. It is simple arithmatic. Global GDP is nearly $70 trillion, and global population is about 7 billion. Hence, global GDP per capita is about $10K. Hence, to pay one person $100K means that 19 other people, somewhere, must suffer a pay cut from $10K down to $5K. That is in fact what happened for many years. We got our $100K salaries,and it was at the expense of a great deal of poverty, elsewhere.

    If by some twist of fate we did pull off that “Trotsky-style global proletarian revolution”, followed by “institution of a new egalitarian global regime”, it would mean that most “middle class” people in the OECD would have to suffer a major pay cut, in order to re-balance things. Again, it is simple arithmatic. This is not my “theory”; it is plain and easily-verifiable fact.

    I say “middle class” in quotation marks since the definition of “middle class” varies tremendously, depending. (And this is why I keep asking you, Demmy, for definitions of such fuzzy terms; you never reply, but you keep on using the terms.) The World Bank defines middle class, in its global statistical analyses, as household income of $5-15K per year. Yes, you read right: $5-15K. And that is perfectly appropriate. That really IS middle class, or nearly, taking the phrase at its literal value (the middle, and close to the average, of the whole distribution) in the global context.

  96. alan2102
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    HEY! No fair! These guys are reading my posts on markmaynard.com, and stealing my brilliant insights about geopolitics, resource limits, and global capital flows!

    ;-)

    ………………………..

    “The WHOLE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM…WILL BE REVOLUTIONIZED”

    “The UNPRECEDENTED TRANSFER OF WEALTH…FROM WEST TO EAST now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.”

    “Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put PRESSURE ON RESORCES — particularly energy, food, and water — raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply”

    “the WEIGHT HAS SHIFTED TO the financial poles of CHINA AND JAPAN, [and] the United States must adjust”

    “the change in the world’s political economy [involves an] ONGOING POWER SHIFT FROM WEST TO EAST”

    “Asia is witnessing a resurgence in its financial and political fortunes and will be at the forefront of an ACCELERATED SHIFT OF GLOBAL INFLUENCE FROM WEST TO EAST.”

    …………………………

    http://www.dni.gov/nic/NIC_2025_project.html
    [pdf of full report available at this link]
    GLOBAL TRENDS 2025:
    THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COUNCIL’S 2025 PROJECT
    From the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council
    “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” is the fourth unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next 15 years to influence world events…. Some of our preliminary assessments are highlighted below:
    — The whole international system — as constructed following WWII — will be revolutionized. Not only will new players — Brazil, Russia, India and China — have a seat at the international high table, they will bring new stakes and rules of the game.
    — The unprecedented transfer of wealth roughly from West to East now under way will continue for the foreseeable future.
    — Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
    — The potential for conflict will increase owing partly to political turbulence in parts of the greater Middle East.
    As with the earlier NIC efforts—such as Mapping The Global Future 2020—the project’s primary goal is to provide US policymakers with a view of how world developments could evolve, identifying opportunities and potentially negative developments that might warrant policy action. We also hope this paper stimulates a broader discussion of value to educational and policy institutions at home and abroad.

    http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/no-one-model-new-global-economy
    snip
    As the world capitalist system seems headed for a period during which major national economic models diversify, the time and mood are not right for a “new Bretton Woods.” Instead, recognizing that weight has shifted to the financial poles of China and Japan, the United States must adjust its global financial strategy….
    New global governance cannot be effectively established without taking into account the change in the world’s political economy, namely the ongoing power shift from West to East. A central focus point of this gravitational shift is China. As events unfold, Beijing’s role, as well as the development of the US-China bilateral relationship in the wake of the crisis, will be critical fronts to watch. From a macroeconomic perspective, China’s position remains strong. The country possesses nearly $2 trillion in foreign currency in reserves, up to 70 percent of which analysts assume to be in US dollar-denominated assets including treasury securities.

    http://coresectorcommunique.blogspot.com/2010/02/nomura-sees-power-shift-from-west-to.html
    Nomura Sees Power Shift from West to East
    London, February 25, 2010 – Asia is witnessing a resurgence in its financial and political fortunes and will be at the forefront of an accelerated shift of global influence from west to east. This is the central finding in a major study ‘The Ascent of Asia’, launched today and produced in partnership by Nomura and Dr. John Llewellyn, the distinguished global economist.
    The study shows that Asia’s solid macroeconomic fundamentals and positive policy responses following the global financial crisis enabled the region to recover quickly, and will contribute greatly to its growth over the medium-term.

  97. Demetrius
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Interesting.

    Not sure how this news will help Ypsi keep police and fire protection, if the city income tax doesn’t pass, however …

  98. alan2102
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    D: “Not sure how this news will help Ypsi keep police and fire protection”

    I’m sure you can make the connection, if you’ve been reading this thread.

    One key to helping ypsi maintain police and fire protection is to think in terms of new 21st-century realities (described above) — realities that will punish communities and individuals who want to believe that it is still 1985. It isn’t. Those days are over, and they are not coming back.

    We’re going to have to adapt to the overwhelming mega-trends described above in a hundred ways, and figuring out how to provide adequate fire-fighting service on a modest budget is just one of them. Time to get over those squeamish and adolescent reactions like “volunteer FD in a CITY?”, and instead start thinking and acting like an adult, facing up to hard realities that are upon us.

  99. alan2102
    Posted January 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    For whatever it is worth: This thread has left me somewhat less enthusiastic about the idea of moving to Ypsilanti than I was a few days ago. Somewhat. I still like the ‘burg. But I would like to think there would be more support for alternative approaches to the costs/services issues — if nothing else, simply to DISCUSS said alternatives. Instead, all I’m hearing is reaction and closed-mindedness.

  100. Posted February 2, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Just a coincidence? Or the reality of future cuts?

    http://www.freep.com/article/20120202/NEWS03/120202006/Elderly-man-dies-in-Pontiac-house-fire?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

  101. Larry Baird
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Disclaimer: I’m not a city resident nor work within the city, just a concerned neighbor.

    The commuting numbers posted on a related link showed that the vast majority of jobs located within the city are held by people who reside outside the city by a margin of about 10 to 1.

    So why do only 1 in 10 of these job holders choose to reside within the city and/or why do 9 out of 10 live elsewhere?

    How will higher taxes impact the decisions of these job holders in considering moving into the city?

    Will an income tax potentially ostracize these commuters?

    Aside from the young, hipster crowd, these commuters represent one of the city’s best target markets in terms of potential future city residents. Be careful how you treat them.

  102. Erika
    Posted February 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    There really are no alternatives. It’s that simple. The city will have to diversify revenue streams in order to remain viable. This isn’t an optional thing, it is a requirement for the city to remain stable and move forward.

    We must pass both proposals and there is no way around that. I have not heard one other alternative option suggested. Have you? Not one. This isn’t theoretical. This must happen.

    It’s time to get serious. If you are still objecting to this, then you haven’t been paying attention and you don’t know the facts.

  103. Glen S.
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    At tonight’s meeting, City Council voted unanimously to place both the City Income Tax proposal and a Water Street Debt Retirement millage on the ballot on May 8th.

    Quite a few people in the audience spoke in favor of one or both proposals (and a couple spoke against), but I thought the most interesting comment was from a young man who said he was a “recovering musician” who was currently living in Detroit — but considering moving to Ypsilanti.

    I’m paraphrasing a bit … but basically he said that — after listening to the budget presentation, and Council’s reasons for supporting the two tax proposals, as well as the comments from various audience members — he was even more convinced that moving to Ypsilanti was the right thing to do.

    He then went on to draw sharp contrasts between Ypsilanti — which he applauded for trying to budget as much as five years into the future, and for being willing to make some very difficult, yet necessary choices, such as the two tax proposals — and Detroit, which he said had been unwilling to do any of these things… the consequences of which, he said, was that, “just leaving your driveway every day presents many challenges.”

    As a long-time resident, I also applaud our City Council for trying to plan for the future during very uncertain times, and for being willing to make these difficult, yet necessary, choices.

    The clock is ticking, and the May 8th election represents our last, best chance to keep our Ypsilanti “as we know it” — safe, solvent, and out of the hands of an unelected, unaccountable Emergency Manager.

    Let’s make this happen.

  104. EOS
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    So there you have it. Indisputable proof that the City of Ypsilanti is still incrementally better than Detroit. What a resounding endorsement!

6 Trackbacks

  1. By Ypsilanti City Income Tax | Adventurestew on February 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    […] level of services from the city. Mark Maynard actually wrote a great (and relatively neutral) post on it on his […]

  2. […] situation, and what's likely to happen if the income tax doesn't pass, I'd suggest checking out our last thread on the matter, which was pretty exhaustive.] This entry was posted in Politics, Ypsilanti and […]

  3. […] […]

  4. […] of having to shoot our own bad guys and put out our own fires, like good, little Libertarians, should additional revenues not be forthcoming.(note: A majority of jobs in the coming decade will be in private security. The rich may have […]

  5. […] our own fires, like good, little “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” Libertarians, should additional revenues not be forthcoming. And, now… finally… it looks like we’re going to get out chance to truly […]

  6. […] There was talk a while back, at a point when finances looked particularly bad, of combining our police and fire departments here in Ypsi. Thankfully, I haven’t heard much […]

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