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.

Continue reading

Save Ypsilanti by voting no on both the proposed income tax and millage on May 8

Our economy must be given the opportunity to recover. Our business community and real estate market must be allowed to thrive. The proposed income tax and millage will impede Ypsilanti’s progress and should be rejected.

For the first time in over a decade, Ypsilanti’s economy is slowly but steadily improving. Downtown Michigan Avenue is near capacity. Vibrant, successful businesses line both sides of the street. Depot Town is shining with success stories.

No matter what the time — day or evening — people from near and far are choosing to visit the professionals, restaurants and retailers in our local business community. The “secret” of how great Ypsi is — the secret residents have always known — is getting out.

Ypsi is now becoming what I expected to see when I moved here over a decade ago. Then, due largely to the legendary mistake of Water Street, which was originally intended to stimulate a renaissance, Ypsi’s economy stalled. Michigan’s and later the country’s declining economy further impaired Ypsi’s progress. Businesses sputtered, and many failed. Residents lost their jobs, and sadly, many lost their homes.

Despite the significant influx of taxpayer money from the federal government and generous spending by our Downtown Development Authority, Michigan Avenue’s vacancy rate remained troubling.

Flash forward to today: Ypsilanti’s economy is improving in leaps and bounds, but there is still much progress to be made. Yet, in the face of this early economic renaissance, the imposition of ever higher taxes on the already highest tax rate in Washtenaw County poses the risk of destroying what has already been accomplished.

While our goal should be to make Ypsi an attractive locale to purchase a home or to open a business, an income tax communicates precisely the opposite to those who would otherwise be interested in locating here. If a prospective resident could pay substantially less in taxes simply by purchasing outside the city boundary, why wouldn’t they? If a prospective business could pay less, simply by locating on the other side of the city line, why wouldn’t they? If a prospective employee is offered the same pay at two businesses — one inside the city and one out — why would they take home less?

The “Save Ypsi” campaign cannot answer these questions. They merely think, without basis, that a tax and millage is a price taxpayers must pay to bail our city out of poor decisions made over a decade ago. They provide no objective measure, no historical model — absolutely nothing reliable upon which to conclude that higher taxes will “Save” Ypsi. Instead, they resort to political rhetoric, polarization, and improper attacks on the character of the good citizens and residents of our community with whom they disagree. As the “Save Ypsi” group kicks the can down the road (city council has already admitted its “plan” won’t fix the problem), they ubiquitously complain that those against the tax have no plan.

The fact of the matter is we do have a plan. It’s time for local government to get out of the way of Ypsilanti’s economic recovery. It’s time to reject this tax and let our community thrive freely without the burden of what will be by far the highest tax rates in the county. Last time, we were told we “needed” this tax or our community would fail was prior to the economic collapse of 2008, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. We weathered that storm with an impressive degree of tenacity and resilience. Now, we are more fiscally sound and stable with a more vibrant business community than in 2007, before the crisis. Despite the rhetoric, we did not “need” a tax then. We don’t “need” one now.

The last time residents of Ypsilanti followed their government’s lead on a decision of this magnitude, Ypsilanti was burdened by the now legendary mistake of Water Street — a mistake that has hampered Ypsi’s economic viability for over a decade. I remain amazed that the very former City Council persons and mayor who voted in favor of the Water Street debacle all appear to have “Save Ypsi” signs in their yards. Given that history has reflected so poorly on their judgment then, their endorsement now of the “Save Ypsi” campaign alone should give residents of this community pause.

I urge you not to allow our local politicians to burden Ypsi’s fragile economic recovery with another colossal mistake that will undoubtedly remain a burden for decades to come. If this income tax is enacted, it will never be “unenacted.” It will weigh upon our community in ways that are likely to eclipse anything we’ve seen yet as a result of Water Street.

Ypsi needs to be saved FROM these taxes, not by them. What we need is a vibrant, continuing economic recovery. What we need is the return of value and equity to our homes so that a stronger real estate market will increase the tax base, not the tax rates. What we don’t need is a massive, taxpayer funded bailout of Water Street. I urge you to vote NO on both the millage and the proposed income tax on May 8.

Cameron Getto is an attorney who represents non-profits in litigation. He lives with his family in the Depot Town neighborhood of Ypsilanti.

Increased taxes will hurt Ypsilanti, not help

By Karen Maurer

Proponents of higher taxes in Ypsilanti often point to cities like Grand Rapids or Ionia as successful communities with a city income tax, as if that tax were a part of their success. It is not, and here are the reasons.

First, consider the 22 Michigan cities that have an income tax. Those most commonly cited to bolster the higher-tax proposition (i.e. “successful cities”) are also among those with the lowest property taxes. Homestead property taxes in Grand Rapids are 33.462 mills (4th lowest), while Ionia levies 34.194 mills (5th lowest). Other favorites for comparison, such as Lapeer (27.348), Hudson (33.21), Big Rapids (38.108), or Grayling (39.118), all rank in the bottom half for property taxes.

In contrast, the current homestead property tax rate in the City of Ypsilanti is 62.858. This means that “successful cities” have tax rates that are nearly half that of Ypsilanti. In other words, cities better suited for comparison with Ypsilanti would be Detroit (66.687 mills), Highland Park (62.409), Flint (51.925), Muskegon Heights (50.756), or Hamtramck (46.979) – the “top five” for high taxes. With the Water Street millage, Ypsilanti would have the highest taxes of all, at 69.975 mills in 2017. Worse, this excludes an expected 86 percent increase in the property taxes levied to pay for police and fire pension and retiree health care (not subject to a vote).

Now that we have an apple-to-apple comparison, how are those five cities doing? Every one has had an emergency financial manager, or has been designated as a “fiscally distressed community” by the State of Michigan. Clearly, a city income tax is not correlated with municipal success. So what is?

Simply put, successful communities have low property taxes, stable or increasing population, and better performing schools. Continue reading