Friday, December 11, 2009

More Trickle Down Taxes: Wyoming Latest City to Ask for Public Safety Millage

While Mike Bishop continues to prance around and brag about how he stood "firm" on taxes, local leaders across the state are struggling to find funding to provide police and firefighters to Michigan citizens - and now we can add Wyoming to the growing list of cities that will be forced to ask voters for a millage increase to avoid putting people's lives in danger.
A 2-mill property tax increase dedicated for police and fire services may come to voters next spring as part of a budget-balancing plan that includes a transition to a public safety department.

After debating an income tax and other fiscal options Thursday during a day-long retreat, Wyoming City Council appears poised next month to approve a five-year levy request for May's ballot.

Wyoming is a "red" city that borders Grand Rapids, and is not one to reach for a tax increase unless it is absolutely necessary. With the loss of GM, declining property values, and the cuts to state revenue sharing, they are at the point where they have to do something to raise around $4 million dollars. And if it doesn't pass? Better find a way to hook the garden hose to the nearest fire hydrant.

We can make it work (without the millage). The problem is you may not like the level of service you get," City Manager Curtis Holt said. The levy "is obviously money that's replacing revenue-sharing dollars that we're no longer getting" from the state.

The tax would restore six police jobs and five firefighter posts cut through attrition in the first half of the current fiscal year, as the city begins moving toward a public safety department with cross-trained officers.

A no-levy alternative reviewed Thursday would leave those jobs unfilled and cut five more police officers and 14 more firefighters.

They also are looking at cutting 12 other non-safety positions, as well as the local public access television station.

Lost jobs, the possibility of lost lives, and the burden of holding elections (and all that costs) in cities across our state next year; that is the legacy of the Bishop-Dillon budget agreement. You start to wonder what effect that will have on any kind of state-wide ballot proposal should the legislature choose to avoid a major overhaul of our revenue system next year. Instead of lawmakers stepping up to the plate, doing their job, and taking votes on revenues, the citizens will have to do it - and that has to be some kind of nightmare for local officials. You have to ask too many times, the voters will say "no" (or won't turn out at all), and the cuts will happen anyway. Now, go sell yourself to "business" as a city they should invest in. Good luck.

Remember that the next time Mike boasts in a campaign about how "strong" he is - all he did was pass the burden down to local leaders, force them to take the tough votes, and put their jobs on the line when they have to campaign next time around. Leadership? More like cowardice. But it is kind of nice to see Republicans eat their own for a change.

Hard to believe those city leaders will be jumping on the "Team Bishop" bandwagon anytime soon.