As I mentioned earlier, I think there are persuasive arguments both for and against the passing of a personal income tax in Ypsilanti. On the pro side, I like the fact that it would allow us to maintain an acceptable level city services, while delaying our slide into receivorship under the rule of an unelected Emergency Manager, who would, among other things, sell our community assets without regard for our long-term interests. And, I like that, for once, we’d have a way to capture some revenue from the non-resident employees of EMU, who, while receiving the benefit of our city services, have historically paid nothing for them. On the con side, I acknowledge that the passing of such a tax will make it less likely that businesses will open in Ypsilanti, that people will move here, etc. It will also add additional financial burden on all of us, at a time when we’re already struggling, and insecure about the future. Personally, I think the solution is a graduated income tax across the state of Michigan, with a more equitable mechanism for revenue sharing with cities, like Ypsilanti. But, it’s too late for us to have that battle now, it would seem. So, we’re faced with this no-win situation. And, given that, I think the best that we can hope for is to conduct ourselves with integrity as we go through the process, put all of our cards on the table, and face this thing like adults… which is why it bothers me so much to hear that those on one side of the issue are refusing to debate, and taking efforts to stop information from being shared. I can accept that people are against the tax. What I can’t accept is laughably-transparent political gamesmanship when the very future of our community is at stake.
Well, as it doesn’t look like we’ll be having a real, public debate, I thought that, at the very least, I could repost some of the more persuasive arguments that have been left here on the site over the past few days, by individuals on both sides of the issue, for your consideration… I’ll start with my favorite comment of all. It comes from Amy Morgan.
I recognize that it confirms my status as a left wing nut job to say so, but I’m with Margaret Wheatley in that I believe conversation – the kind where we actually remain curious about one another – is the basic way people think together. I’ve had a lot of those conversations in Ypsi; not the “I think this and you think that therefore we are not the same and I can write you off as crazy,” kind, but the “I think this and you think that and we both love our city and isn’t life interesting see you at the coop/bar/park/farmers’ market” kind.
Thinking together is what we NEED if this city is going to survive and be the kind if place we want to live in. While I have come out in favor of the income tax, what I’m REALLY in favor of is a productive exchange of ideas. A community where everyone has enough confidence in our collective ability to THINK for our city that we debate (converse) respectfully and passionately in public forums (actual and virtual) with confidence that THINKING TOGETHER we can create solutions that don’t leave anybody out in the cold.
Is it REALLY too late for a debate?
My two-income family will experience at least a 30% tax increase. I can show you the numbers. We are the very type of family that this city needs and this tax will do nothing except make me furious for imposing this on my family. You want some mythical hip Ypsilanti that has never existed and probably never will and you think it’s a cute little game to have my family pay for it.
I’m sorry that the state government has turned against the local municipalities. I’m sorry that the state loves to spend all our money on prisons that don’t make us safer. I’m sorry that general economic conditions have drained this state of way too many people to repopulate Ypsi. I’m sorry Mark and Steve want to drag us all into their little personal spat. I’m sorry our former leaders ruined us with their horrible idea to be land barons. But its not OK to ask my family to fix it.
Why would any of you think that throwing more money at the very people who oversaw this mess is the way out? As I understand it, the first sign of insanity is doing the same action and expecting a different result. How is this any different? I do not trust any of you. THAT is the sane position based on history.
I will debate any of you any time in any venue. I do not belong to any group but I feel someone needs to speak for those of us that all of you are asking to pay for this folly. I’m voting NO. I’m asking everyone I know to vote NO. I will speak with facts about my position and I do not have any personal spat with anybody in city government.
The purpose of these proposals is not to raise more money to build some mythical “hipster” paradise — the purpose of is to make sure we can continue paying for basic services that benefit everyone: Sufficient police protection to prevent and combat crime. A fire department capable responding quickly in an emergency. Making sure there is someone “there” at City Hall when residents or business-owners need assistance.
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see any of the City’s budget presentations, or to review the charts/graphs in the Mayor’s recent “State of the City” message, but the facts are pretty sobering. The bottom line is that unless we find some source of additional revenue, the City will have to begin making drastic cuts — and quickly. And, since the City has been cutting steadily for over a decade, and, because the Police and Fire Departments make up the great majority of the General Fund budget, those two areas are really the only place left to cut.
So, while I can understand people not wanting to pay more in taxes, I have to ask: O.K., THEN what?
Are the “No” folks seriously suggesting we should just “let the chips fall,” and risk a downward (and accelerating) spiral of cuts that ultimately leads to a fiscal crisis, gutting our Police and Fire Department, and the imposition of an “Emergency Manager” from Lansing? How, exactly, would that be good for individuals, families, or the community as a whole? What would this do to property values? To insurance rates? To business development?
As for “throwing more money at the very same people who oversaw this mess,” I have to say: (Four) of the City Council members who voted to put these two measures on the ballot ran on an “no new taxes” platform — but have now agreed that our budget situation is so dire that that the additional taxes are needed. Do you really think they would do that — and risk the wrath of supporters and voters — if there were any other way out of this situation?
The choice we face on May 8 is difficult, and the options are far from perfect — but I think a “YES” vote is our best opportunity to keep our community financially stable, and safe, while we wait for the economy to improve, and for things to get better, eventually.
Glen, I have read all the letters and examined all the presentations given so far. I am fully up-to-speed on all facts here. I guess I just don’t see the same doom and gloom in living within our means that the rest of you do.
Yes, the city will have to make cuts. So has my family over the past several years. So have all of you. Whatever the IRS hasn’t taken, DTE picked up. Whatever DTE didn’t get, my insurance company scooped up. And yet my family hasn’t fallen apart and neither have yours. We adjusted. We found a way.
If we get our house in order, there is no emergency manager. That’s not even up for debate. Ypsi has no need for one. That you throw it out within a statement about something else just reveals that fear is your motivator here. You are scared of the unknown and all those demons just tumble over each other in no particular order in your words. The only thing that scares me is the foolish things the Ypsi government has done with my money – provable FACTS. The FACT is that they just can’t help but go back to the well for more. Our money is crack to these folks.
You ask about property values. Property values have already tanked, negating that point entirely. Thanks to that fact, property is actually incredibly affordable in Ypsi. (I saw a 4-bedroom on Summit for $72k.) Has this created a housing boom? No. Even with the larger police force, even with a robust fire department, even with no income tax, Ypsi still got into this housing mess. And yet your main point is that we have to keep funding these things or the city is in trouble. We tried that already. We tried it and yet here we are. I see no correlation between funding these departments beyond our means and the growth of the city. Before you continue to go on about this issue, prove that this works. Show me the data.
You ask, “Then what?” I don’t have all the answers. Paraphrasing Thoreau, “I do not want to spend my life trying to make the world a better place. I simply want to live in it and experience it.” It’s not up to me to have all the answers and it’s not up to me to pay for others’ “answers” when they have no data to show that they will work – when their proposals run counter to the very obvious facts about our own recent history. I do have one example of a huge improvement when the city got out of the way: When the city got out of the community pool business, we got a great new pool. Say what you will, but the city would never have built that pool. PEOPLE built that pool and I definitely have faith in the brilliance of the masses acting in their own self-interest. I do not have faith in government, but these wonderful, passionate, caring people have shown us, “Then what.”
But I really love this statement: “…while we wait for the economy to improve, and for things to get better, eventually.” You have not one shred of evidence for this. I just don’t get the concept that we’re supposed to keep throwing money into the belly of the beast and sit back and cross our fingers. I think we’d be better off pooling our money and heading down to the casino for a spin of the roulette wheel. This just sounds like gambling to me.
Yes Lane, this is a 30% increase for my family. My taxes will go up 30%. It’s absolutely painfully unfair for you to tie this income tax to our property taxes in any way, shape or form. This tax is not indexed to property taxes. There is no end date and no end trigger. This is a permanent tax increase. If it isn’t permanent, then why is there no end date on it?
I will vote NO. I encourage everyone to vote NO. I ask those of you who want to vote for this to ask the people who proposed this why they aren’t being up front about putting an end date or an end trigger on this tax. This is nothing more than an attempt to use fear to lock up a permanent supra-Headlee revenue source. It puts us in the same boat as Detroit. It didn’t work for them and it won’t work for us. Vote NO.
You mention the May 8 proposals as putting us in the “same boat as Detroit.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
The budget drama we are seeing in places like Highland Park, Pontiac, Benton Harbor — and Detroit — is a good example of what happens when cities don’t want to face reality of their changing situation, or aren’t willing to take positive steps to deal with it.
Unlike those communities, Ypsilanti has recognized the magnitude of the situation and has been, and continues to be, proactive. We’ve been making cuts for well over a decade … eliminating the City’s Recreation Department, slashing City Hall staff and combining multiple jobs into one, outsourcing things like IT services and police dispatch, trimming total City payrolls, and making staff pay more for healthcare. However, we’ve now reached the point where there really isn’t anything left to cut without hacking away at “core” services, like Police or Fire — or instead, facing the very *real* prospect of a financial crisis, and eventual State takeover.
Difficult situations sometimes require difficult choices. In supporting these proposals, I’m not necessarily trying to “make the world a better place,” I’m merely doing what I think is right to protect my family and my neighbors — by making sure Ypsilanti remains a stable, and safe, place to live.
“I do have one example of a huge improvement when the city got out of the way: When the city got out of the community pool business, we got a great new pool. Say what you will, but the city would never have built that pool. PEOPLE built that pool and I definitely have faith in the brilliance of the masses acting in their own self-interest. I do not have faith in government, but these wonderful, passionate, caring people have shown us, “Then what.””
FACT CHECK: The Friends of Rutherford Pool has indeed saved this precious Ypsilanti resource — primarily by putting together an application for a GOVERNMENT (TAXPAYER FUNDED) GRANT! What’s more, they could not have achieved this without utilizing City staff for technical support, and the City itself, as the “agent” to apply for that grant. I applaud the efforts of the Friends of Rutherford Pool … and we definitely will need more of these kinds of citizen-led projects going forward. But without a viable City Hall (and staff) available to help “leverage” such efforts, these kinds of successes will become more and more difficult.
So, sorry… but trying to paint the new Rutherford Pool as solely a triumph of individual efforts over government incompetence is a bit like when Tea Party-types scream about wanting to “keep the government’s hands off my Medicare.”
I’m linking property taxes to income tax because the decline in one has directly lead to the need for the other. Why is it unfair to mention that? I appreciate the fact that my taxes have gone down so much.
If your property taxes are anything like mine (about $3500) a 30% increase of your current taxes would be $1,050 meaning at a 1% rate that you would be making over $100,000/year.
Assuming your house is less valuable than mine (and my house is lovely, but pretty small) Lets say your property taxes are $2000. That means a 30% increase would amount to $600 putting your annual income at $60,000/year more than twice the median household income in Ypsi ($28,610.)
Sorry, but I’m just not buying the sob story that contributing 1% of your income to keep cops on the street and city services running is cruel and unusual. The truly impoverished are exempted from paying, and the rest of us should be willing to do our part to help our city pay its debts and weather this recession.
Property taxes – just north of $3,000
Gross income – just south of $100,000 (remember, we’re two incomes)
New taxes – $1,000
Lemme math that for you – $1,000 is 33% of $3,000
We can wiggle those figures around anywhere between 25-35%, but we’re absolutely in that ballpark. Our house was purchased in 1992. Because of Headlee limitations, our taxable value didn’t fall nearly as much as you all imagine. We are not seeing the same drops in property tax that proponents would have you believe.
You also all like to talk about how we’re gonna get EMU to pay, but they only pay 1/2% of their income. We pay 1% – TWICE. You might think “Hey, we’re gonna get what we’re owed from those freeloaders.” But you’re really hitting us four times as hard to get it. Are we just collateral damage?
And I’ll cover this again: Until someone shows me that this income tax is legally tied to triggers in property taxes, these two issues have nothing to do with each other. Though you can philosophize all you want about how happy you are to kick in more money to compensate for one fund source over another, I’m not happy to pay a new tax that will never go away. Not a single city leader has commented once from what I can tell about when this tax goes away. It’s permanent. It has nothing to do with property taxes.
The pool project was lead by private citizens. Though they utilized government resources and tax-funded grants, private citizens had a plan, not the government. I don’t trust the government (particularly one with the track record of Ypsi) to have any good ideas. The one they did have was a disaster coming and going. I’m not against government and I’m not against taxes. I’m against THIS tax.
No one is talking about doing away with government. I only propose that we accept that we must live within our means. I have zero desire to do away with either the police force nor the fire department (nor turn them all-volunteer). I only ask that they, like everybody else – like every one of our families, shrink to fit the revenue available to them.
For those of you spouting gloomy predictions of the Robocop-like future of Ypsi: I simply disagree. You have zero proof and zero data that we will suddenly collapse into a crime-ridden hellhole. It’s the worst sort of fear mongering and it has no place in a debate about financial responsibility. Tip of the hat to Amy Morgan for asking for debate about this issue. We must TALK and THINK this through, not propagandize.
For those of you hurling “tea party” lines at me: You are doing nothing but making enemies and sounding foolish. I am as far from tea party as you can imagine. I believe in equality for all (including marriage). I believe in single payer. I believe in a small military and a peaceful world full of negotiation. I hate all war. I LOVED Mark’s fundraiser for Ozone House and I’m proud that our city told the anti-gay slapdicks to take a hike – TWICE. I also believe that disadvantaging Ypsi compared to its neighbors is no way to attract people to our city. I believe THIS tax is horrible.
If you want to fix the problem, direct all this energy at the state and its obsession with prisons. (Oh, I’m also not “tough on crime” and proud of it. People need help, not punishment.) As we have learned, Ypsilanti has no comprehensive solution. Even with this tax, we will be here again in a few short years, the government crying with its hand out. Tossing in more money and crossing our fingers is what folks do at the casino – doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Those of you who support this keep saying, “What is your plan?” I throw that right back at you. This very temporary patch you have latched onto like a lifeline is not a plan. You have no plan either. You just have a punt. We can hurl “you have no plan” back and forth all day if you’d like. I doubt anybody really wants to hear that. What they would like is some direction. I believe that direction is Lansing.
I’m not against all taxes. If this was about raising the state income tax, I’m in. Let’s get back to the revenue sharing model we had and move on. I’m against THIS tax. This tax is a bad idea coming and going. Vote NO.
One final statement about the flyer I received at my house from the Stop City Income Tax folks:
This thing is childish, cartoonish and offensive. If you want to change minds, get your facts in order and plant the seeds of truth in people’s minds. It’s this sort of asshole behavior that starts spats like the Mark Maynard / Steve Pierce brawl. How can Mark or any reasonable person evaluate a single idea when you present yourself like this? Why shoot for the lowest common denominator? Hell, I’m with you on this issue and all I want to do is punch whoever made this flyer in the face. You are not a good representative for this issue. Please grow up and join the debate.
So, what are your thoughts on all of this? Are there questions that you still need to have answered before going into the voting booth? Do you feel as though “the time for debate is over”?
Additional resources, for those of you who want to be fully informed before commenting:
City of Ypsilanti income tax FAQ
City of Ypsilanti 5 Year Plan
Stop City Income Tax
Save Ypsilanti Yes
City of Ypsilanti Water Street debt millage FAQ