State of the City of Ypsilanti 2012 — the Five-Year Plan

    The following was just sent out by Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber. As I don’t know if it will get picked up in what remains of our local press, I thought that I should reprint it here, so that people could share it by way of Facebook, etc. That, of course, doesn’t help the thousands of Ypsilantians on the other side of the digital divide, but I guess it’s a start.

    Dear Ypsilanti Friends and Neighbors:

    Over the years, residents, business owners, neighborhood associations, and volunteer groups have made the city of Ypsilanti more attractive to run a business, raise a family, and enjoy neighbors and friends. We should all be proud of our progress and expect more great things to come.

    However, the collapse in property values and tax revenues coupled with state spending cuts for cities have decimated Ypsilanti’s long-term structural budget. The bottom line is this: we have reached the point where the city will be forced to cut police, fire, and support services that we all depend upon unless the city develops a significant new source of revenue.

    Recognizing this unprecedented financial challenge, Ypsilanti City Council has wisely approved a bold five-year budget plan that calls for maintaining police, fire, and support services by replacing lost property tax revenue with a city income tax and a Water Street debt millage. A unanimous City Council vote placed these two proposals on the May 8 ballot. The unanimity of the vote underscores the importance of approving these proposals. They will provide a stable economic base to continue attracting businesses and families to Ypsilanti.

    This state-of-the-city message will focus on Ypsilanti City Council’s five-year budget plan, the county recreation center proposal for the Water Street property, business development and community service accomplishments over the past year, and the retirement of longtime city manager Ed Koryzno.

    A Bold Five-Year Plan

    In February of this year, Ypsilanti city council passed a bold five-year budget plan. The plan calls for preserving police, fire, and support services by replacing lost property tax revenue with a city income tax and a Water Street debt millage. Both proposals will be placed on the May 8 ballot for voter approval. The proposed city income tax is 1 percent for working Ypsilanti residents and ½ percent for nonresidents who work in the city. According to the independent City Income Tax Feasibility Analysis commissioned by City Council, the city income tax would raise $1.3 million from city residents and $1.5 million from nonresidents who work at Eastern Michigan University and other businesses in the city. Virtually every city income tax dollar paid by a city resident will be matched dollar-for-dollar by non-resident workers who also rely on city police, fire, and other services. Since the general fund property tax rate is already at the state constitutional maximum of 20 mills, a city income tax is the only other significant revenue source available to the city.

    The Water Street debt millage ballot proposal language estimates an average 5.4 mill property tax increase, but the five-year plan pays half of the debt millage with general fund reserves. So an Ypsilanti city resident would pay approximately 2.5 to 3.5 mills more property tax. City residents can calculate their estimated city income tax and property tax increase on the city of Ypsilanti website.

    The five-year plan is a comprehensive response to falling property tax revenues and Water Street debt payments. General fund property tax revenue is projected to fall 30 percent, from $7.2 million in 2010 to $5 million in 2017; the state is projected to reduce revenue sharing from a high of $4 million in 2002 to $1.3 million in 2017. In addition, Water Street bond payments are now approximately $1.3 million per year. The expenditure cuts of the last decade can’t continue without drastic reductions in police, fire, and support services. Over the last ten years total city staff has been reduced by a third, from 139 employees in 2002 to 93 today. Many employees are already performing multiple functions. For example, the assistant city manager also serves as the department head for planning, building, and human resources.

    Cuts in federal spending have been passed down to the state. Cuts in state spending have been passed down to Michigan cities. Declining property values have reduced property tax revenues. Many cities will struggle year after year to balance their budget. But Ypsilanti voters can take control of their destiny by approving the five-year plan on May 8 and voting yes on both proposals. The combination of the city income tax and Water Street debt millage can replace falling property tax revenues and preserve public safety and support services (see graphs beginning on page 5). With a solid five-year plan in place, Ypsilanti can provide fiscal stability to grow and thrive.

    Water Street Recreation Center

    For decades the Water Street property was home to manufacturing and businesses that brought tax revenue to the city. As manufacturing left Ypsilanti, buildings were left abandoned and blighted. Over ten years ago the city acquired the Water Street property for redevelopment to enhance downtown. Unfortunately, negotiations with two developers did not come to fruition and banks tightened lending during the economic downturn. Now the bond debt for the land purchase is due with no compensating property tax revenue. State law requires the debt to be paid; default is not an option.

    But the city hasn’t given up. Over the last few years, the city has spent $1.2 million in state and federal grants to demolish dilapidated buildings and remediate contaminated soil. In January, the city signed a letter of intent to build a county recreation center on the northwest corner of the Water Street property. The Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission will own and run the center. The center will offer affordable recreation to the east side of Washtenaw County. It will be similar to the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center located in Washtenaw County Farm Park in Ann Arbor.

    Although the county recreation center will be tax exempt, the center will provide tangible benefits to the city of Ypsilanti and foster development of the Water Street property. The recreation center promises to be a stable development that will attract other taxpaying commercial and residential development. Unlike private business ventures that may or may not survive, the county recreation center will be a successful and stable anchor for the Water Street property.

    Business Development and Community Service

    Many exciting development projects are happening downtown:

    - the Red Rock Downtown Barbeque opened this spring after painstaking renovation work,

    - Model Cave opened on Michigan Avenue and attracts model enthusiasts from all around the greater Detroit metropolitan area,

    - the Crossroads Summer Music Festival provided another summer of free Friday night family entertainment and plans to continue this summer,

    - Mix Market successfully opened in the former J. Neal’s Mongolian Barbeque space featuring many local vendors,

    - Michigan Ladder expanded manufacturing operations in Ypsilanti, and

    - the Mellencamp Building on Michigan Avenue is being beautifully restored into retail space and loft apartments by Eric and Karen Maurer

    In Depot Town and on the east side:

    - the East and West Cross streetscape redevelopment was completed with stamped crosswalks, bike paths, rain gardens, and LED streetlights,

    - Woodruff’s hosted the fourth annual Mittenfest fund-raiser for 826michigan, a nonprofit organization that supports the creative writing skills of students age six to eighteen,

    - the Made in Michigan General Store opened next to Café Ollie,

    - the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority storefront façade grant program provided $40,000 in matching grants that spurred $125,000 in storefront improvements,

    - the reorganized Elvisfest was successfully held again in Riverside Park,

    - the Thompson Block scaffolding was removed and a coat of paint spruced up the exterior,

    - Riverside Park hosted the Brewers’ Guild Beer Summer Festival in July and is scheduled to host it again this year,

    - the 2011 Ypsilanti Heritage Festival provided another successful summer weekend of family fun, and

    - the Wurst Bar opened in the former Theo’s Bar on West Cross Street.

    On the west side:

    - the Friends of Rutherford Pool raised over $625,000, including a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, to rebuild Rutherford Pool,

    - the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission supported the Rutherford Pool with a $50,000 grant, and

    - Washtenaw County received a $3 million HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant to improve housing and transportation along the Washtenaw Avenue corridor between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor (only $7.1 million was allocated for all of Michigan).

    South of Michigan Avenue:

    - Hamilton Crossing (formerly Parkview Apartments) has total financing of over $16 million, continues construction, and is now leasing apartments, and

    - Hope Clinic opened a 20,000-square-foot addition last May to better serve the health needs of low-income residents and families without health insurance.

    City Manager Ed Koryzno Retires

    Longtime Ypsilanti city manager Ed Korzyno retired in January. He guided the city and City Council for fifteen and a half years, which is an extremely long tenure for a city manager. Mr. Koryzno has joined the Michigan State Treasurer’s Office, which will be utilizing his budget and planning expertise on behalf of Michigan cities facing financial trouble. Speaking for myself and everyone else on City Council, I thank Ed Korzyno for his professional leadership, his advice, and his deep commitment to the Ypsilanti community. Ypsilanti will miss him, but he will now be making our state stronger.

    Best regards,

    Paul Schreiber
    Mayor, City of Ypsilanti

    So, any thoughts on this? Do you think it’s an accurate snapshot of where Ypsi is today? Do you feel as though the Mayor should have touched on other subjects, like crime, for instance? Do you feel as though he did a good job of framing the income tax debate? And, are there other significant community accomplishments that he should have noted and didn’t?

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      34 Comments

      1. Posted April 3, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Hamilton Crossing (formerly Parkview Apartments) has total financing of over $16 million, continues construction, and is now leasing apartments,

        This one is pretty huge. Parkview has been in several layers of legal limbo for a decade, and become more and more visibly vacant in recent years: bad for the community to have as visitors’ parting impression as they got back on 94, bad for the surrounding neighborhood to have to endure, and bad for the tenants who were stuck in the middle, fighting for their right to decent housing. (Bad for the statisticians, too–this single property was 10% of the city’s vacant housing count in the 2010 census.)

        For the Mayor, Council, and Mr. Koryzno (and, okay, Housing Commission, which I do not often praise) to have forged a resolution to that mess, and one that also protects the interests of the now-former tenants, deserves a lot of credit.

      2. rodneyn
        Posted April 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Murph, the question remains hanging in the air over Parkview/Hamilton Crossing: “Is this the best outcome for this site? From a design perspective, the layout of the buildings and site remain seriously flawed. The design of the units, even with the cosmetic upgrades and improvements, don’t really reflect the needs of today’s residents, much less off the flexibility needed for tomorrow’s residents.

        This is an outdated project receiving a fairly expensive facelift, but it will remain outdated at the end of the day. It will certainly look refreshed when the work is complete, but will it function any better than before? This time, will it prove to be a vibrant and viable neighborhood? Based on the design flaws that have not been addressed in the upgrades, I suspect not.

      3. j
        Posted April 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        “-the Thompson Block scaffolding was removed and a coat of paint spruced up the exterior”

        Anyone read this and not roll their eyes?

        That said, the rest of the list is rather impressive for a city this size.

        One thing Schreiber missed is Wolverine Grill reopening.

      4. j
        Posted April 3, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        @rodneyn
        Could you elaborate on the design flaws not being addressed?

      5. k
        Posted April 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

        j,

        Yes! The Wolverine is back. Had breakfast there this weekend and although I miss the hammerhead shark, they’re a good part of the community operating with integrity, effort (and nice sausage) and I hope they remain a staple.

        Not to compete with The Wolverine but I finally made it to Tower Inn’s b-fast buffet, too. It’s not Denny’s 500 assembly line options, but it was the best handpicked omelet I’ve had since Cady’s closed doors. Watching Rois make and serve crepes with a deep-hearted smile is worth the very reasonable price of admission. It was a really good experience which I will relive.

        Red Rock. Not dined yet, but any reviews? Will be there soon.

        Oh, and I like our mayor. Agree or disagree with his politics, you can’t deny he’s candid and true. That’s rare.

        I like it here, but I live in a place where liking comes easy.

        And I’ll vote for it!

      6. Edward
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        He also neglected to mention our thorough drubbing of the homophobic cyber bully EOS, and the big donation to Ozone House. Still, though, it’s a nice list. Let’s enjoy it while we can. Soon this thread will turn into an all out war over the income tax.

      7. SparkleMotion
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        I applaud Ypsilanti for actually getting it together for once. The only thing I don’t like about city income taxes is that they’re usually introduced in times of need, but they don’t go away once the problem is overcome.

      8. Burt Reynolds
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        “-the Thompson Block scaffolding was removed and a coat of paint spruced up the exterior”

        Anyone read this and not roll their eyes?

        I rooled my eyes even more when I read this morning they are painting a civil wall mural on the building with YHS students. nice project for the students I suppose, and I understand the history, It just doesn’t seem to mesh well with the idea of tenants. You know, those people that pay taxes and potentially offer a service?

      9. Posted April 4, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Rodney — and just how *are* that gift horse’s teeth looking today, anyways? ;)

        I agree that the renovation of Parkview is not the redevelopment I would have designed from the ground up, had I the chance, and I can say first-hand that the planning commission pushed for a more intensive rearrangement of the property, in unit mix, circulation, and design.

        Unfortunately, the aforementioned engtanglement of layers of lawsuits, Federal ownership, and HUD financing limited both what we could get changed on the site and the window of time we had to deal with it. At the end of the day, what we’re getting isn’t my dream for the site, but it’ll be a darned sight better than leaving the property to rot for more years.

      10. K2
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        Have the EMU employee unions, or EMU administration weighed in on the idea of a local income tax? Has EMU, for instance, said that it would make the job of recruiting good people more difficult?

      11. Posted April 4, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        @Burt

        The mural will be affixed to the front of the building in such a way that it can come down if/when the building is ready to be occupied. What I’m more concerned about is what the heck Beal is doing with that building. Isn’t he supposed to be renovating it? Especially after screwing up that intersection for so long?

      12. j
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        Red Rock is still figuring some things out–their menu isn’t even finished–but excellent food, good beer, and a quality renovation. Should be a winner.

      13. Rustbelt Revival
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        lots of Ypsi ♥ here from mayor Paul Schreiber! Other amazing developments not on the list: the expansion of the The Ypsilanti Food Co-Op, the grand opening of the Growing Hope Center, the city tree nursery on Water Street, the Ypsilanti Growers Cooperative, & Totally Awesome Fest 8, & the ‘seeds for change’ community kitchen incubator (to open in 2013) to name a few.

      14. Dan
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        I think it’s fair to point out a few things here:

        #1, several articles linked here are from AA.com, showing good things going on in Ypsi.

        #2 and more importantly, the article about the Mellencamp Building renovation quotes the Maurer’s as saying “The taxes are so high here that it would stop anybody from investing”

      15. Anonymous Mike
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        The Maurers are an interesting couple. They rail against government programs, in spite of the fact that they made their fortune rehabilitating buildings with state and federal sources. Then, when those sources dried up, in part due to the complaining by anti-tax folks, such as themselves, they responded by saying publicly that they were done rehabilitating buildings in Ypsilanti. In other words, now that they have sever hundred rental units, and could easily afford to invest their own money in these types of projects, they’re getting out of the business, because the tax give-aways are no longer there. It’s one of the more confusing things I’ve seen in my life.

      16. Dan
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        It’s not confusing at all. It’s business in America. That’s what rich people do.

      17. Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        What’s confusing about the Maurers is that they literally made their money off of government subsidized projects at the same time as they spoke out against such programs. It’s like working for a company that pays you well while going around telling your friends not to do business with your company.

      18. j
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        @Adam

        Not that confusing. That’s pretty much the platform of the GOP. They should pay taxes not me. They’re welfare queens, but I deserve my benefits.

      19. Angela Barbash
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        A few notes –

        As SparkleMotion mentioned, I would be concerned that once the city was stabilized the income tax would not be rescinded. Can the ballot include language about how it has to be renewed by voter approval after 5 years?

        As an add-on to that thought, IF the City and Township can successfully negotiate a Police/Fire Authority within the next 3 years would the City voters prefer an Authority millage over an income tax? I’m in the Township, working in the City. The thought of getting charged both ways for the same service is pretty painful…

        How has/will/can EMU help with this budget situation? I’m sure having the city taken over by financial managers, in the event of voters turning down the measures, will not look good for their recruiting efforts. Anyone know the specifics on the financial support, if any, from the University?

        Red Rock is awesome, we’ve been there four times now. Shawn says the full launch is scheduled for Saturday April 14th.

        All issues aside though, I love what folks in the City have done. Seeing your leader recount a laundry list of accomplishments is refreshing. Can’t say we get the same accolades (or economic activity for that matter) in the Township.

      20. j
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        To their credit, from my walks around town it looks like the Maurers actually maintain their properties. That can’t be said about all Ypsi landlords. I’m willing to give them a pass on silly politics since they get a lot of the other important stuff right.

      21. wetdolphinmissile
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        wow some meanness toward hardworking Ypsi loving folks here. anybody think what these taxes will mean to landlords? After the city allowed the big penn place…it turned midtown appts into slum like conditions (for the last 5 years!). And then people fix up downtown buildings and they are accused of coporate welfare. As if they are rich…off of gov’t subsidies? Not their own sweat equity and effort. Attending endless Historic Comm meetings (that could make you want to die!) And yes they all have a lot to loose, besides the falling values of their property homes…

      22. Dan
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        this shouldnt turn into a “bash the Maurers” thread. They do good things for the community. I posted their quote “The taxes are so high here that it would stop anybody from investing” to show that some of the largest investors in the community are being driven out by the current taxes. Several people here like to assume that raising taxes more won’t discourage investment.

      23. Anonymous Mike
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Miss Missile, I don’t think that anyone said that they didn’t work hard, or, for that matter, deserve their success. What we said was that they were able to do what they did because of government subsidies. Furthermore, they did this while going on and on about small government, and the need to slash taxes. Then, when their state and federal financing went away, they basically took their ball and went home, saying that their work in the community , as it related to restoring buildings in Ypsilanti, was done. It’s as though they feel that state spending that enriches them is good, while that which keeps others alive is bad. The same goes for a number of conservatives, who like you scream about “welfare queens”, even when they’ve had to depend of public assistance themselves. Joe the Plumber is a classic case. I find it interesting, that’s all.

      24. Posted April 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Agreed, no one said anything bad about the Maurer’s work. I agree with j that they are an example of good landlords. I was merely pointing out that if their political views had been adopted by the state earlier than they had been then they never would have been able to get where they are today. Lot’s of great projects come from state and federal funding. As both those tiers of government restrict the revenue stream flowing to cities it is those cities that suffer.

      25. Posted April 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        What about going the stadium route and offering rights to rename city-owned structures? We could offer up naming rights for the world-famous water tower, for instance, for $500,000. Offer up a few other naming options like the Michigan Ave bridge and City Hall (How about “The Golden Palace Casino Ypsilanti City Hall”?) and we could quickly reach our revenue goals without instituting a measure that will DISCOURAGE people from living and working in Ypsilanti, a measure that was tried (and failed) before…

      26. Pro Ypsi
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        So many cool things going on in this city! What a great thread! Too bad it’s being mucked up by people slipping in low blows at the Mayor and Council to further their campaign. Seriously for once just take a break and enjoy all the cool things happening here.

      27. Glen S.
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        @ Misha

        Research shows that additional taxes don’t necessarily discourage people from living and working in a community — but poor city services, blight, and most especially, crime — do.

        Without a source of additional revenue, the City of Ypsilanti will be forced to make additional cuts to Police and Fire Protection — on top of the cuts that have already been made.

        I am WAY more concerned about the negative impact of reaching a “tipping point,” where Ypsilanti begins to be perceived as being more undesirable, or more unsafe, because of budget cuts, than I am about the impact of a modest increase in taxes.

      28. Dan
        Posted April 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        @Glen can you provide a link to this research?

        @Pro Ypsi what are the “low blows” you speak of?

      29. Tom
        Posted April 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        Regarding Parkview, I’d take a look at the report that the National Right to the City Alliance released in 2010:
        http://www.righttothecity.org/we-call-these-projects-home.html

        In summation, more Section 8 housing is bad for communities. Public housing is the more viable and affordable option for people of low income and ensures more continuity across generations. I think this new development will just further gentrify the city.

      30. alan2102
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Here’s a novel idea:

        http://www.zerohedge.com/news/scranton-mayor-minimum-wage-all-or-become-stockton
        Scranton Mayor: Minimum Wage For All Or Become Stockton
        Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/09/2012 15:10 -0400
        The infamous city of Scanton, PA has had financial troubles for a couple of decades – losing population since the end of WWII – but as NPR reported this weekend, the $16.8 million budget gap that Mayor Chris Doherty is trying to fill (and the disagreements between his taxation proposal and the city council’s borrow-more-money view) has driven the mayor to an incredible action. Doherty has reduced everyone’s pay – including his own – to the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In an ironic choice of words, the desperate mayor noted: “I’m trying to do the best I can with the limited amount of funds that I have,” Doherty says, “I want the employees to get paid. Our people work hard — our police and fire — I just don’t have enough money and I can’t print it in the basement.” NPR continues, After paying workers Friday, the city had only about $5,000 left in the bank. More money flowed into city accounts that day, but it was still not enough to pay the $1 million the city still owes to its nearly 400 employees.
        This is, of course, stressful on the union workers affected as one notes: “[The] kids aren’t going to be able to do certain activities this summer — maybe we’re not going to be able to go on vacation” (to Italy we wonder?) adding that (via HuffPo), “With Scranton and Pennsylvania being such a hot bed for the next election, we want to make sure that they know there’s a Democratic mayor that’s not taking care of his public safety unions,”. The unions plan to be back in court first thing Monday morning to ask the judge to hold Doherty in contempt. It seems municipalties across the country are increasingly turning to austerity measures to tackle their budget gaps and protect bond-holders (until they finally become Stockton, CA).

      31. Edward
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Alan, could you afford to raise a family on $7.25 an hour?

      32. alan2102
        Posted July 9, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        Edward, do you think that because I posted that item, that I am advocating that particular thing to that particular extent? If so: Why? Do you have an imagination? Can you imagine other reasons for posting that? Did you look up the full article on Huffpo? Did you find anything interesting, illustrative, edifying or humorous within it? If so: What? and Why? Yes, those are essay questions.

        What amused me was — among several things — the mayor cutting his OWN pay to minimum wage.

        This is just the beginning. We will see a tidal-wave of municipal bankruptcies over the next 5-10 years, and with any kind of luck, the responses to many of them will be more creative than Mayor Doherty’s.

        And to keep it in global perspective (always a good idea, no?): about 1 billion people in this world would be feeling quite rich if they had an income of $7.50 per DAY, let alone per hour. (Idiot notice: no, that does not mean I think that people should be grateful for getting a lousy-ass minimum wage.)

      33. Watching Ypsi
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Anonymous Mike,

        Obviously the Mauers are purely acting in self interest of HOW, they can make more personal money. In a smallish town like Ypsilanti, it was possible for them to attempt to personally achieve this with swaying votes to their business endeavor favor . It’s just ALL about money for the Mauers and they will go out of their way to get it personally in such a city as Ypsilanti with it’s size problems. Just my 2 cents of witnessing Ypsi all these years.

      34. Watching Ypsi
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        with it’s size and problems, to clarify.

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