A2Y Chamber and League of Women Voters Water Street Debate

DebateOn Tuesday, August 2nd, City of Ypsilanti voters will weigh in on the Water Street Debt Millage Proposal. This proposal asks for an additional 2.3 mills to repay debt related to Water Street fiasco. Passage or failure of this millage will have major outcomes for the City of Ypsilanti, its residents, and businesses.

Voters need to have their questions answered. To this end, the A2Y Regional Chamber and the Ann Arbor Area League of Women Voters will hold a joint forum this Thursday, June 30th at 5:30pm at Eastern Michigan University (Student Center – Room 320). This event is free for community members but space is limited, so please be sure and register.

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Election Results

According to the unofficial results from Washtenaw County, we have good news to report.

City Income Tax
Yes — 1000
No — 1808
64% margin

Water Street Millage
Yes — 1019
NO — 1786
64% margin

We won in every precinct and in every ward.

We knocked on over 5,000 doors and made over 4,000 phone calls in just 8 weeks of campaigning. The message we heard was clear, Ypsilantians are unhappy over the Water Street fiasco and for the second time in five years, the voters have clearly said the solution to the fiscal challenges in Ypsilanti is not higher taxes. While some will simply dismiss these results as an anti-tax sentiment from voters, we know that is not true. Far from it, Ypsilantians overwhelmingly embraced additional taxes in 2010 to insure stable funding for bus services.

Voters told us they were frustrated with a City government that is seemingly disconnected from the community. A city government that doesn’t understand how hard residents, homeowners, and businesses have been hit by the collapse of the real estate market and the downturn in the Michigan economy.

The hard work has just begun

While the outcome is everything we hoped for and worked so hard for, the fiscal challenges facing Ypsilanti remain unresolved. That is why we say, “The hard work has just begun.”

This is not a time for celebration, now is the time for all of us to begin working together as one.

  • We must come together to begin the important work on the City budget.
  • We must make meaningful progress on Water Street.
  • We must deal with the legacy costs of pensions and benefits.

We must clearly define what are core services to be provided by the City and then with a singular focus, provide those core services at the lowest cost possible.

No longer can we distracted by chasing grants, proposals, and pet projects that don’t work to support our core City services such as Police, Fire, streets, and trash pickup.

No longer can we afford to look only inward, we must look outward to find both short and long term solutions to our fiscal challenges. We cannot be bound by the prejudices and decisions of the past. Finally, we must be willing to embrace change and find new ways to provide vital services for our community.

We stand ready to serve and eager to begin the dialog for meaningful change in the way we prioritize and pay for services in our community. We are all Ypsilantians and neighbors first.

Thank you to all the Volunteers and Supporters that worked so hard on this campaign!


A2Y Chamber Opposes Ypsilanti City Income Tax and Water Street Millage

Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber
Statement of Opposition to the Ypsilanti City Income Tax and Water Street Millage

May 2, 2012

The City of Ypsilanti has proposed two ballot initiatives for the May 2012 election. These are the adoption of an annual rate of tax on corporations and resident individuals of 1%, and on non-resident individuals of .5%; and a Water Street Debt Millage to meet the bond payments due to investors in the Water Street Project. The City of Ypsilanti faces serious fiscal challenges ahead. These challenges are compounded by the facts that Ypsilanti is small in area and roughly 35 percent of its land is owned by the State of Michigan, thus it is not taxable by the City. Ypsilanti has also lost many of its largest corporate tax payers in the last fifteen years. In response to these and other challenges, the City Council has placed these two items on the May ballot as a possible solution to address its fiscal challenges.

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber agrees that a solution is needed, but it does not believe the income tax is that solution. An income tax would place too much burden on residents and employees of Ypsilanti businesses who already face an already high property tax level. An income tax is also too broad and permanent in terms of tax policy at a time when there are many uncertainties about the City’s fiscal situation and tax changes, such as repeal of the Personal Property Tax, at the State level. The City and its leadership are absolutely right that it needs more revenues, but the Chamber believes an income tax is the wrong way to get those revenues.

To its credit, the City Council has proposed an idea for addressing the City’s fiscal challenges. It has also provided for drastic reductions in its workforce over the last five years. The Chamber advocates for Ypsilanti to enter into increased cooperative agreements with other units of government, such as surrounding cities and townships, along with Washtenaw County, to meet its service needs and provide fiscal relief, such formation of joint authorities. The City has explored some of these options and we hope it continues to do so. In addition to these efforts the City should continue to work with Eastern Michigan University on any and all efforts to retain graduates once they have completed school. A program about to be launched would create incentives for EMU employees to buy homes within the City, and the Chamber and the community as a whole should actively support it. Finally, Ypsilanti should actively seek to benefit from its relationship with the City of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, and its proximity to vital transportation networks such as I-94, US-23 and Wayne County Metropolitan Airport. Ypsilanti is a special place unto itself, but it can enhance its chances for growth by marketing itself as fully connected to a broader community that is both unique and vibrant.

The City has also proposed a solution for meeting the bond payments due on the Water Street Project. The Chamber opposes this millage because it has too much uncertainty. It allows for future decision makers to control the amount levied and it provides too broad a definition for what can fall under the budget area of “Water Street.” Voters will not know exactly what they are getting if they vote for this millage. With further clarification such a millage should be discussed.

Although the Chamber disagrees with the City’s proposed solutions, we want to recognize the fact that the City’s leadership have at least proposed them. Critics of the income tax and Water Street Millage need to do more than just criticize this plan. That means providing their own solutions, building organic support for them from all segments of the public, and advocating them in a way that is both practically feasible and politically realistic. So far they have failed to do this. The Chamber will seek to provide assistance in that effort. The Chamber recognizes the City’s fiscal challenges and applauds the City for putting forward a plan to address them. Though we disagree with the plan, we urge all parties to meet after the election to discuss new ways forward and we stand ready to serve as the organization to facilitate such a meeting.

PDF link to A2YChamber opposition to City Income Tax and Water Street millage

Higher taxes is no substitute for leadership

What is Stop City Income Tax (SCIT)?

SCIT is a group of private citizens advocating alternatives to higher taxes in the City of Ypsilanti. We are the neighbors that you see every day. We are the guy filling up his pickup at the gas pump. We are the couple in the next booth at your favorite restaurant. We are union members and stay-at-home moms. We are professionals, we are students. We are residents of Ypsilanti who love this town and want it to thrive.

What are our values and beliefs, and why are we opposing the proposed income tax and millage?

Ypsilanti is our home and we want it to succeed. We believe in transparency in government and expect our elected officials to be honest about our options. We recognize our challenges, but fear the consequences of higher taxes. We hope to suggest, advise, and make our case for change, but the ultimate responsibility rests with City Hall. To date, it has delivered the Water Street fiasco, pension bloat, and now the proposition that our community must have the highest taxes in the State to survive.

It cannot be emphasized enough that City Hall has no plan. All it has is a two-page spreadsheet of projected revenues and expenses, based on assumptions of property-value trends that it cannot articulate, reproduce, or defend. The entire argument for higher taxes is built upon “various factors” we are not allowed to know. There are no other substantive documents, roadmaps, or proposals. That is not a plan.

Even if City Hall’s estimates of the natural trend in property values over the next five years are correct, they absolutely fail to consider the additional drop in value (i.e. lost tax revenue) that higher taxes will inevitably cause.

Under City Hall’s proposal, the buyer of a $120,000 home in Ypsilanti would pay an additional $31,000 over a 30-year mortgage. Home buyers will reflect this fact by reducing offering prices, thereby driving down property values. In other words, while the proposal for higher taxes superficially covers short-term costs on paper, any gains would be quickly lost by erosion of the tax base.

This means Ypsilanti would likely be left with the same or lower revenue, lower homeowner equity, and the stigma of an income tax. This is in addition to the much higher taxes that City Hall already plans to impose (without your vote), to cover past pension giveaways – something it often forgets to mention when selling its “plan.”

SCIT understands that taxes are important to support our community and quality of life. However, the proposal from City Hall is self-defeating, fails to correct any structural issues, and will exacerbate our problems at great cost.

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