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Posted on Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

A city income tax will hurt - not help - Ypsilanti finances by further eroding the tax base

By Guest Column


The City of Ypsilanti still enjoys a healthy balance sheet, with over $9 million in a rainy day fund, giving it options other financially distress cities in Michigan don't have, guest columnist Karen Maurer contends.

Steve Pepple |

Editor's note: This column has been updated to include Karen Maurer's photo.

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.


Karen Maurer co-founded Ypsilanti-based Maurer Management, a property management and development company.

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.

Besides a city income tax, Detroit, Highland Park, Flint, Muskegon Heights, and Hamtramck also have in common very high property taxes, ever decreasing population, and poorly performing schools. The same is true of cities that do not have an income tax but were assigned an EFM, such as Benton Harbor and Ecorse.

Given these indicators, Ypsilanti has everything in common with these struggling communities, and nothing in common with Grand Rapids or Ionia. So how does Ypsilanti avoid their fate? Certainly not with their failed roadmap of shortsighted revenue fixes in lieu of reform.

High municipal taxes are doubly pernicious because they both erode the tax base (by depressing property values) and drive away population, leaving schools with high fixed overhead but without enough students to fill them. They can cause a death spiral like that seen in Detroit, where houses can sell for mere hundreds of dollars, and fiscal insolvency is close at hand.

The good news is that the City of Ypsilanti still enjoys a healthy balance sheet, with over $9 million in a rainy day fund. This means we have a choice.

When deciding how to vote on Tuesday, May 8, ask yourself two questions: Will higher property taxes and a city income tax turn the tide and encourage new people to move to Ypsilanti? Will they make our schools better? If you believe the answers are “NO,” then you should vote “NO” on the City Income Tax and Water Street Debt-Retirement Millage.

Success in our community does not depend on higher taxes. Success depends on reasonable tax rates, encouraging people to move to the community, and improving our schools. This is where we should focus our energy.

Vote “NO” on both measures to save Ypsilanti on Tuesday, May 8.

Karen Maurer is a business woman, Ypsilanti homeowner, and mom of 5, who along with her husband, Eric, co-founded Ypsilanti-based Maurer Management, a property management and development company in 1990. She can be reached at


Ron Stout

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

Tax corporations , not people ! They get away with fiscal murder ! 'Stress infrastructures ! 'Leave a fiscal mess ,and a myriad of other problems when vulture capitalists like Romney ship the jobs to China !Make em pay to play !They'll leave you anyway !

Duc d'Escargot

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

I keep hearing about this "nine million-dollar rainy day fund", but even if there is a reserve that large, which I doubt, won't it be depleted in the next few fiscal years due to 1) declining property values 2) Water St. dept payments and 3) rising costs already identified in budget projections? Nobody wants to raise taxes (despite what the anti-tax side sometimes claims) but nobody has offered a practical alternative that would keep the city financially solvent.

Stuart Brown

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 3:24 a.m.

Ann Arbor has some of the same issues Ypsilanti does, a large state university that pays no local taxes. In Ann Arbor, I have been advocating that the city cut off fire service to UofM unless UofM creates and operates its own fire department. Could Ypsilanti do the same thing to EMU? For Ann Arbor, an income tax would require a 6 mill reduction in property taxes that would benefit landlords. In general, an income tax for Ann Arbor is probably a bad idea--a long term descent into the abyss--but a short term windfall for the city. You can't stop people from moving to the surrounding suburbs.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

The current high property taxes deter many from buying and/or beginning ventures in the city. Young families looking to find a city to call home will not be able to afford to make Ypsilanti their choice. When looking at the big picture, I may be able to find a beautiful home at an incredibly low rate, but if I cannot afford the taxes what does it matter? My husband and I looked at the reality of us being able to pay the taxes on a home in the city after we retire, this may be many, many, years from now for us, but this was important. The answer was unfortunately no. There are many other young and creative individuals who are trying to make a change in Ypsi, who are trying hard to invest in its future, but many will not be able to afford these proposed increases. I agree that little has been said about what a no vote will bring, but the same can be said of a yes vote. The bills will be paid at first, but then what? Without creative strategies for reform and growth the city will continue to decline, and once again we will find ourselves in this position. I may not live in the city, but that does not mean I do not care. As a lifelong resident, I want the best for the area, and for the city I grew up in. It makes me sad that I cannot expect to be able to raise my family and retire in the city that gave me so many memories.

greg, too

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 3:40 a.m.

This is the major issue I have found with this entire "debate." Both sides are willing to tell you what they believe will happen if the tax passes or fails, but none of them have an opinion on what to do to fix the city the day after the vote. The taxes should just be one part of repairing the problems, keeping it solvent while the city council and mayor fix the problems of rising crime, property values in the tank (they help with taxes, hurt when you need to sell or refi), and the school system is even worse and heavily in the red and forcing most students to use school of choice or move. How do you fix these issues? I have no idea. But I am also not an elected official who was put in power by the citizens to fix these things and their five year plans have projected financial amounts, but no plans on how to fix the city's ills. Will they try more millages to cover school issues or potential costs for police and fire? More layoffs? Something with the township? Who knows since they aren't telling us. Both sides like to yell and rattle their sabres, but neither wants to actually tell us how they would actually fix the problems.

Bob Krzewinski

Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 6:23 p.m.

As an Ypsilati resident, I really appreciate the work Karen Maurer has done to develop properties inside the City, at the same time I can't forget that she also opposed the last measure to fund the Ypsilanti District Library (a millage that voters thankfully passed). But hey, this is not surprising. Just about any developer/landlord would be very much opposed to any type of tax. I just wish opponents of the tax proposals on the Ypsilanti May ballot would tell us what their detailed plan is to help keep the City solvent, other than just saying "No new taxes". That is not a plan!


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Something else to consider is that renters don't care one bit what property taxes are, but they will not rent anything where they will not be safe. Ypsi has a great deal of rental properties, the occupying of which will bring more revenue to the city in the form of increased traffic in restaurants, shops, etc. If the modest income tax proposal passes, something that's supported by the majority of city employees even though they will have to pay it and have already taken several pay cuts, renters will help diversify the revenue stream and help take the load off property owners.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

jmcmurray - if you live in the city you will pay a 1% income tax, doesn't matter where you work. If you live elsewhere and come in to the city to work you will pay .5% income tax. Not every renter is a student. I know young professionals and families that rent in the city, as well as many homeowners that are underwater on their mortgages. If you own property in the city you are subject to the floating millage and as seen in previous articles the revenue predictions vary. Morning Girl: College students typically have poor voting records, but as I pointed out not all renters are college students and many renters in the city are very low income families.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

Eastsidemom, college students don't care about an income tax. They care about renting near the U, and that's in the city.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.



Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

I'm a renter in Ypsi who goes to school full-time. Many renters are students who don't work in Ypsi. Please provide information abut why renters care about an income tax.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 2 p.m.

they care about an income tax


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

Ms. Maurer is as guilty as anyone of using the politics of fear to deliver her largely economic based opinion. She is wrong. As stated by another poster, crime is the issue that drives people from communities, especially younger people with kids and older people on their own. Crime is the reason the city of Detroit has experienced such massive population declines. Crime. Y Ypsi has nothing in common with Detroit, whose citizens have allowed corruption and stealing of tax dollars to become an institutionalized part of doing business. This is not the case in Ypsi. The city must be able to pay its debts and maintain public safety to continue its fledgling revitalization and to keep people from abandoning homes they could otherwise afford. Diversifying the revenue stream, through the establishment of an income tax that will more fairly distribute the load, is the way to do that. Ypsi's public services are as lean as they can possible be. Please don't take anyone's word for it. Visit these offices yourself, and ask your questions. See for yourself. People who refuse to publicly debate, and who offer absolutely nothing, constructive or otherwise, as an alternative, obviously don't want you to be be well informed. See for yourself, and decide for yourself.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

I forgot this link:|nextstory This is what happens when people don't feel safe.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

People like the Maurers are in the business of long-term planning. That is what real estate investment is all about. The window is in decades, not years. It is ridiculous to assume that they have not carefully considered the pros and cons of both sides with respect to the long-term effect on property values. If in fact a "no" vote leads to the disastrous results threatened by the "yes" side (e.g. liveability, property values), the Maurers have far more to lose than most of the rest of us. The city needs higher property values for better services, and if anyone knows about improving property values long term, it is the Maurers. If Karen believes that on balance "no" is better than "yes," you might be wise to listen to her. This is her field of expertise.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 11:34 a.m.

Voters should not allow anyone to their thinking for them. The idea that she somehow knows better than anyone else is ridiculous. Ride along with your police officers, visit your Fire Department and ask questions at city hall. See the situation for yourself, and make up your own mind.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 10:16 p.m.

I have given this a lot of thought and have decided that even though I really don't like the idea of an income tax, if I want to stay in Ypsilanti, I am probably going to have to vote for it. Because if I am honest with myself, even though I wont like it, I will pay an income tax. But I will not live some place where I don't feel safe in my own home. I have deeply appreciated the responsiveness of the Ypsilanti Police Department and because of them, I feel safe in my community. If an income tax is what is needed to preserve our police and fire coverage, I have to be for it. I know an income tax will turn people off but wont an unsafe city turn them off more?

Anna Elder

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

There should be some red faces among the SCIT crowd -- red with shame. The inflated numbers they are quoting are just a fear tactic, designed to scare people into voting no. They have been caught red-handed on facebook and on the blogs making claims they can't back up. If they have to heap on this many red herrings... well, something smells pretty fishy. The voters will give SCIT the red light -- enough is enough. The truth is, a yes vote includes exemptions for low income people, seniors, those on public assistance. The income tax is pro-rated according to how much is earned within the city. These are reasonable approaches and will add a lot of income to our city, which is land-locked, and where EMU takes up a lot of tax-exempt space. It will be a red-letter day for Ypsilanti when these initiatives are voted in. Vote yes!


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 10:52 a.m.

@Anna: our faces are red from working too hard to pay too high of taxes already. It will be with red faces that council has to sit down and and come up with a future we can all live with after May 8th.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

I know Ms. Maurer -- she is a neighbor and a valuable business person in our city. I adore much of the rehab work her company has done for the city. I absolutely agree that these classy restorations have added a great deal to the revitalization of Ypsilanti. But I cannot agree with her position on these issues. A city without good police and fire protection, without basic city services, without well maintained parks and streets, without good lighting, trash pickup, etc., is no place I'd want to live, no matter how gorgeous the properties. We need these revenues -- all that could be cut HAS been cut. After the pork is gone, new revenue sources are needed. Period. It's not rocket science. The 5 year plan to pay the bond and raise some revenue from the many who work in our city and depend on city services is a good one. I'll support it with my yes vote on May 8.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 9:22 p.m.

...some above claim that the Municipal Reserve or Rainy Day Fund is a much smaller number.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

@Maier Suchowljansky: A review of the audited financial statements of the City of Ypsilanti for the year ended June 30, 2011 indicates that the size of the "Rainy Day Fund" as of that date was exactly $3,545,913 because the rest of the $9.4 million "fund balance" was restricted (see page 15 balance sheet "Fund Balance, committed for various purposes" & "unassigned amounts", mostly for repayment of the Water Street bond & some other smaller items all detailed in footnote 3-I on page 47 for the details of the items committed for various purposes). The Footnote called "Fund Equity" at the bottom of page 32 is pretty clear that the "unassigned amounts" in the general fund are not committed for any purpose & can be spent in any manner. These are the municipal reserves, or Rainy Day Fund. In discussions I've had with the Michigan Municipal League I've been told that the best practice for the size of the "Rainy Day Fund" of a unit of local government ought to be a target of 15%-25% of annual expenditures, which in the case of the City of Ypsilanti General Fund would be just above $1.8 million to just over $3 million ($12,069,983 x 15% or x25%, the figure for annual expenditures in the General Fund for the year ended June 30, 2011 is on page 20). The annual audit (CAFR) for 2011 is available here: A good research paper that discusses Rainy Day Funds & best practices of how large they should be is here: In Ann Arbor, what we find that City Council has voted in various restrictions that are placed on the Municipal Reserves & because of these various buckets, they claim to have much lower reserves each year than what the auditors state. Those restrictions established by vote of City Council can of course be revoked by vote of City Council. This may explain why


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

The people complaining that the Maurer's received tax breaks and now should be oh, so thankful, to pay more taxes obviously have zero comprehension of how much time, energy, personal risk and money goes into re-hab'ing and maintaining a rental property. Tax breaks come into play after you take a risk with your own money and time it's not like some government department just handed them a ton of money to use however they wanted. They and others like them are responsible for making Ypsilanti a place that has begun attracting people who could afford to live elsewhere. Of course they can be expected to be against the taxes, they will have to pay additional taxes on all of their properties (taxes that are already higher than those of most homeowners because there is no homestead exemption) they will have to pay 1% on all of their rental income from those properties. They are the people the city needs and exactly the ones the city will drive away with these taxes. The pro-tax people should think about what attracts them to this city in the first place. I'm sure it's not just the police department (which if you just judge by the newness of their vehicles and the fact that I've seen many occasions where three cars can respond to petty complaints like loud radios maybe can handle some cuts) and garbage pickup. Maybe historic buildings like the Maurer's are playing a part?


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 10:50 a.m.

right on r756, the Maurer's are exactly the kind of people Ypsilanti needs

Rodney Nanney

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Karen Maurer writes from the perspective of a businessperson who has invested much time and treasure in the city of Ypsilanti over many years. She and her husband Eric have done more for the downtown than anyone I know. To have partisan hacks demean their work and their success by suggesting that they received some special privilege or that their success is somehow less than 100% the result of their blood, sweat, and tears is ludicrous. When Ypsilanti business people like the Maurers have spoken up and raised concerns about this massive tax hike (30% or more for many people!), the pro-tax partisans like Gary S. and "City Confidential" go immediately into attack and belittle mode. As for me, I would suggest that there is no one better qualified to analyze and speak out on the disastrous effects that these new taxes would have on our community. Our business community has been told by City Hall for too long that they are to be "seen and not heard." We need to listen to the Maurers and follow their lead in voting down these massive and unsustainable tax proposals on May 8th.

Maier Suchowljansky

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

After reading the opinion piece and comments, I've learned that opponents believe raising property taxes and implementing an income tax will further harm the city and drive it deeper into the tank, while proponents believe it's the only way to save a city government that has been run into the ground by those elected and hired to operate it. I've learned that a rainy day fund doesn't really exist, extraordinarily bad debt has been incurred, and voters are being asked to cough up more taxes and impose an income tax so that those same government managers can do more of the same. What am I missing? Why is a professional EFM more objectionable than all this?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:32 a.m.

Rick Snyder has done more to help Michigan's future in one year than Governor Grandstand did in eight.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 8:40 p.m.

"Why is a professional EFM more objectionable than all this?" Because it is fashionable to hate Rick Snyder. Didn't you get the memo?

Ypsilanti City Resident

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

The Article by Karen Mauer was well thought out and Factual. Before the Mauer's took an interest in the Downtown Renaissance, most of the building were vacant. For example the Kresge Building See: The City have given some tax breaks to investors and it has been successful. I wish the same could be said for Water Street. Eric and Karen have proven how that they have been model Investors and motivators. I agree with the NO More City Taxes for residents.

Ypsilanti City Resident

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.


Mary Ann Barbary

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

It would be so nice if Ypsi actually did have extra money in a rainy day fund. But that is completely false -- virtually all of that money is already committed to specific projects. It's not like a bank account where you can devote funds where you like. Ms. Maurer knows that all but $160,000 of those funds are already committed. The schools are not funded thru the income tax OR millage. So where's the beef? And I'd love to hear alternative plans from the naysayers -- but they won't go public with a viable, fact-based, alternative plan. All they present is wish lists for our city. I've read the 5 year plan and it seems conservative, smart, and it won't hurt too bad. Thus I'm voting yes. Not because I love taxes or city council or campaigners, but because I love Ypsi and I'm willing to fight to save my home town.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

And the SCIT campaign continues to avoid the real issue. Ypsilanti has a budget deficit that needs addressing. While it's all fine and good that they have some idea that an EFM will be good for Ypsilanti those of us who still respect our city recognize the need to actually deal with this and not just ignore the problem. The proposals on the May 8 ballot are a realistic responsible plan to deal with the situation at hand. Just because the SCIT campaign doesn't even have enough respect for Ypsilanti voters to engage in a proper debate doesn't mean we should be buying into their emotional manipulation. Vote yes to keep public safety intact. Vote yes to keep state appointed bureaucrats out of Ypsi. Vote yes for the future of Ypsilanti.

Victor P

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

I am voting NO NO on these tax proposals. Again! For the second time we have to waste hard earned money to vote again because Paul Schreiber's gang cannot take NO for an answer. And Carol, Erika and Glen can keep posting on FB all day about how they will vote yes - because Paul told them too. What a fraud and waste of Ypsi's money. VOTE NO.

Tex Treeder

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

An excellent analysis by Ms. Maurer. As a resident of Ann Arbor, where some misguided folks raise the option of a city income tax every once in a while, I wonder where Ann Arbor ranks in terms of homestead property taxes.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Mrs. Karen Maurer is right on with this article. Nice job. The higher taxes will only result in a death spiral. Ypsilanti has been teetering on the edge of rebirth or death spiral for decades. This will decide it one way or another. Of course, business owners can afford to get out if this happens. Many residents will be stuck holding the bag with no way out - and higher taxes. It is a nice life-long lesson.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Unfortunately I don't get a vote in this election. As you can see above, I do have some advice for the citizens of Ypsilanti, however. Here is one final comment on this topic. I have the "privilege" of personally paying about $15,500 a year in property taxes in Ypsilanti because I foolishly believed that Ypsilanti was a great place to live and would continue to prosper. In the current situation, I'd happily sell my property for about HALF it's current assessment. Let me know and it's yours. If you tax something, you get less of it. Do you want more jobs? If you put an income tax in place, fewer jobs will be created in your town. Some jobs will move out, lowering the value of your existing commercial buildings. If you raise property taxes even further, that will lower the value of your homes and commercial buildings. In the long run, having the highest municipal property taxes in the state of Michigan *and* an income tax is a recipe for economic disaster. As CEO of a local community bank that manages $10.7 billion in customer funds, and having run a very successful economic development fund earlier in my career that made possible $275 million of investments and turned around some very depressed cities in northern Michigan (for example, we took Cheboygan from a 20% unemployment rate to a 7% unemployment rate and increased the tax base of Menominee 40% with another investment), I can tell you that this is not the way to turn your city around, but the way to drive it into the ground.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

Oh my gosh, single handedly lowered unemployment in Northern Michigan. Are you serious? I hope your judgement is better running your bank than in buying the real estate at the wrong time in Ypsilanti like many others did in many other places. But then again, given the two position drop among banks in our market place (wasn't it from 13th to 15th, or something like that) in terms of market share, it looks like even your bank could benefit from better attention ? Perhaps less time posting your wisdom all over

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

@Glen S.: As always when evaluating the merit of advice from a so-called "expert", one should consider their track record. Under the 23.75 years that I've been the head of our banking organization, it has grown from 20 employees to 295. We've grown customer assets under management from $34 million to $10.7 billion and last year originated $350 million in new loans. We've won every top award a community bank can win, including the "Community Bankers of the Year" awards from both the American Bankers Association and American Banker magazine and the "Outstanding" award from the FDIC for Community Service and Community Reinvestment. The economic development venture capital fund I helped run, Michigan Business Industrial Development Company, single-handedly lowered the unemployment rate in northern Michigan and earned University Bank 35% per year for the seven years we ran the fund, catalyzing $275 million of investments into growing firms, with just a $6.5 million capital base. I have served since 2004 as the Vice Chairman of the Washtenaw County Economic Development Corporation and since 2003 I've served as a director of the Ann Arbor Economic Development Corporation, including a two year period as President, during which time we assisted the Glacier Hills retirement community with a major $20 million expansion. As the Oscar award winning documentary "Inside Job" indicates (I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it yet), taking advice from some mega bankers and central bankers was indeed foolish, however you should always differentiate between mega banks and community banks when thinking about whose advice to take.

Glen S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

One of the main reasons cities like Ypsilanti are suffering from this financial crisis is because of the housing/mortgage bubble -- which is mostly the result of bankers who lent money to people they KNEW would never, or could never, replay. They made HUGE profits from the commissions from writing these mortgages, then when the "bubble" popped, turned to us -- the taxpayers -- to bail them out. So, yes -- I absolutely trust my locally-elected, locally-accountable politicians to decide what's best for my community -- rather than some banker who doesn't even live in Ypsilanti.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

I suppose you'd rather take advice from amatuer politicians?

Glen S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Just what we need -- more advice from "bankers" about what's good for the economy!

Brendan T

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

I think higher taxes only result in slums. Just like Detroit. I would not buy anything property in Ypsi - the water street sale is a joke. The only turn around is to promote the City in a positive way. Higher taxes does the opposite. Ypsi already has the highest taxes around and also the highest crime rate.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

According to what I've heard, Ann Arbor actually has a higher crime rate so far in 2012 than Ypsilanti. Oops.

Anna Elder

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

The schools have nothing to do with this debate. (Ooops, did I say "debate?" SCIT is deathly afraid of that word -- open and public debate means fact checking. And their points can't stand up to public view.) The anti position is full of complaints, red herrings, and distrations. Thats why I don't trust it. It's all very well to shout NO NO NO, and it's quite another thing to back up your words with a different workable plan. They don't have one. We need to plan for the future now and that's why I'll be voting yes on May 8.

Donna S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

"City Confidential" = Erika Nelson - a member of the Pro More Taxes "Save Ypsi" Group. This will result in a death spiral - business will move out - and so will citizens. Houses will sit vacant with prices in the $100 range. Just as in Detroit. Of course, the 'Save Ypsi' folks don't care about Ypsi at all, anyway.

Anna Elder

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

If that's true, Ms. Nelson has her facts straight. Businesses exist to serve customers not to duck taxes. Many factors contribute, including city services, location (location, location), customer base, infrastructure, public safety. PLUS Ypsi taxes have always been high, yet in recent years the city has really taken off in terms of business investment (including Karen Maurer's business) -- so the death spiral is another red herring. No wonder RED is SCIT's color of choice.

Carol L

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Because of drastic declines in property tax and state revenues, which Ms. Maurer fails to mention, we have already lost 1/3 of our city employees and will lose half of the remaining staff if these proposals don't pass. This means we will not have the police and fire protection we need for a safe community. That will surely drive away residents and businesses more than these new taxes. I want my money to go toward the Ypsilanti police and fire departments and maintaining a safe community, rather than expensive private security and increased homeowner's insurance. I am voting YES on both proposals on May 8th.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

So ... did you see the "Save Ypsi" lies online? Basically, all they want is a way to give themselves a fat pension and retirement when the current City Council retires. The current City Council is terrified they won't get the huge raise in Pension that the former City Manager received when he left. It is nothing short of stealing. The current $5M set aside for 'bond payment' will do nicely to pay for all of these pensions. All we need now is simply a way to pay the bond!


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

He may be getting confused about the golden parachute our previous city manager received from the previous mayor and council.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Where on earth did you get the idea that City Council gets a pension?

Glen S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

George -- do you ever do any research before you make baseless allegations online? The Ypsilanti Mayor and City Council members do NOT receive any benefits, nor are the eligible for a pension. The Mayor and Council members do receive a small stipend, but these are basically "volunteer" positions In fact, the Mayor and most City Council members all have either full-time jobs, or have retirement income. So, regardless of how you feel about the May 8 ballot issues, it is simply untrue to say that the Mayor or City Council members will benefit personally from them, in any way.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

The biggest problem with a city income tax is that nobody is going to move into the city when they can move a couple blocks away and live in the township. This will just cause property values to drop even more! As for the millage, unfortunately we are going to have to pay for the water street debacle because the city would rather let this hidden gem sit and let us pay for it then do anything with it. It would be a great addition to the Huron River Border-to-Border trail and a great place for some river front stores to bring in tax revenue.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

That's simply not true. Many people will move into the city rather than the township to be close to campus and downtown. I also don't understand your comment about Water Street. Don't you think the City would love to have some riverfront stores bringing in tax revenue? That will happen if we go with the count rec center plan, which will attract complementary retail shops.

City Confidential

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3 p.m. "Outook The assignment of a negative outlook reflects the ongoing financial challenges from stressed revenue streams including declining property tax and state shared revenues; declining liquidity to meet debt service obligations on its limited tax debt mostly related to the Series 2006 bonds; and significant chargebacks and tax appeals that may further pressure General Fund operations WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING UP (REMOVE NEGATIVE OUTLOOK): - Material increases in the district's tax base - Additional revenues leading to structural balance WHAT COULD CHANGE THE RATING DOWN: - Declines in General Fund reserves and liquidity - Further material declines in the district's tax base - Significant increases to the district's debt burden and inability to meet debt service payments on limited tax debt

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

"Moody's long-term obligation ratings are opinions of the relative credit risk of fixed-income obligations with an original maturity of one year or more. They address the possibility that a financial obligation will not be honored as promised. Such ratings use Moody's Global Scale and reflect both the likelihood of default and any financial loss suffered in the event of default." "A Obligations rated A are considered upper-medium grade and are subject to low credit risk." See:


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

"Simply put, successful communities have low property taxes, stable or increasing population, and better performing schools. . . . They [high municipal taxes] can cause a death spiral like that seen in Detroit, where houses can sell for mere hundreds of dollars, and fiscal insolvency is close at hand." Correlation does not imply causation.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

@Jim, I think you mean, if you can't afford your taxes, you TRY to sell your house, but if your mortgage is underwater you can't sell it so you have to walk away. In the meantime, the home has no basic maintenance done for a period of years which further hurts the eventual resale value of the home during the foreclosure auction.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

If you can't afford your taxes, you sell your house - sounds like cause and effect to me.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

All the projections of financial doom and talk about Emergency Financial Managers are scare tactics based on "facts" that come from the same people who frequently revise the city's five year financial projections up and down to such a degree that you ought to question their competence. Do you actually trust their figuring and five year projections? Paper takes ink, but that doesn't make it true! See: I suggest you ask the following question of your political leaders: if the city is in such "bad" financial shape, how come your outstanding debt is rated so highly by the bond rating agencies? An "A2" rating is an excellent investment grade rating! Sure the rating agencies aren't perfect but they are a lot more careful these days than before. This is a manufactured "crisis" in my opinion and in my opinion you are being hoodwinked. I'd like to see the financial projections that were provided to the rating agencies!!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

@Dirtgrain: Please do not interpret my comment as an ad hominem attack. It is the financial figures which are suspect. I am sure the people are acting in a completely honest way and trying their best. However the past decisions of some of your city leaders both past and present indicate clearly their abilities were/are not up to the task of making multi-million decisions with taxpayer funds. I'm sure they had a wonderful 10 year projection that indicated that they would make tons of money on the Water Street project, too!


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

"All the projections of financial doom and talk about Emergency Financial Managers are scare tactics based on "facts" that come from the same people who frequently revise the city's five year financial projections up and down to such a degree that you ought to question their competence." So soon after you call out others for ad hominem attacks on Ms. Maurer, you do the same.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

I'm reading between the lines: Karen Maurer wants Ypsi to have an Emergency Financial Manager, whom she thinks can magically erase our debts with the stroke of a pen. How has that worked for other cities? Crime rates go sky high, city assets sold at fire sale prices, mass exodus. Debts remain. That's what she wants for Ypsilanti. No thanks, Karen. I'll vote YES to keep this city intact.

Lifelong A2

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I respect Ms. Mauer's work in Ypsilanti, but her opinion is missing a key piece: What's the alternative? She implies that the City doesn't need these new taxes because the City can rely on its $9 million fund balance. Most of those funds are earmarked for specific commitments or are not available for operations spending (day-to-day expenses for police, fire, etc.) because all governments must set aside some "rainy day" money. Other than this vague reference to the fund balance, Ms. Mauer does not propose a solution for the City's economic crisis. The people who oppose these tax proposals owe the residents more than just screaming "NO!" They owe the residents an alternative proposal. We're still waiting....


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

The reason Karen's comparisons to other communities with income taxes isn't valid is because 40% of our land is taken up by non-tax payers, EMU being the bulk of that. Also Stephen has a point about Karen and her red herrings. Mentioning school performance in an article about local income tax is ridiculous. No one in support of these important measures suggested that they would affect school performance in any way. The reality is Ypsilanti has lost a huge portion of its revenue. Over the last several years the city council and mayor have done a great job of reducing staff and costs. The tough reality now is that any further cuts will be detrimental to the safety of our city. Much more so than a local income tax. Right now we have a lean and efficient police force. Cuts to our budget will cut that force even further. We have a Fire Department that is barely staffed at sufficient levels for our city. If these proposals fail that staff will shrink. The measures on the May 8 ballot are important to our city and our future. I will be voting yes twice and hope you will do the same for your city. -Adam


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

It's pretty cynical to choose to locate a business in our city, accept tax breaks to further that business, make a tidy profit, and then work to discourage the maintenance of city services. Isn't that cutting off your nose to spite your face? A business locates to serve people who want to live in a city environment, with city services, but then fights the funding that will keep them in place? What I don't like is that the anti-income-tax people won't present their ideas to the community in a public debate. Just saying "no" is not a plan for the future. If this isn't the way, then what is? They aren't saying. It seems like the anti side just continues to complain about their taxes -- while they put out four-color postcards, point fingers, and shell out the bucks for huge downtown billboards. They clearly are doing well enough to afford these tactics -- I learned to share and share alike. Guess they missed that basic life lesson.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

The anti Save Ypsi campaign has been doing an excellent job of running a campaign of emotion and failing to address the facts and the real issue at hand. Karen's article while it's the closest thing to fact we've seen from them fails to mention that the so called "rainy day" fund, is really the general fund. And of the $9M in that fund there is only about $160K available to the city right now. So even mentioning that in this article is just another red herring. The vote on May 8th is about a real solution to the financial distress Ypsilanti faces. While in the grand scheme of things it's never great to have to ask for an income tax is the fact is that this is the only real solution we have. Not to mention the fact that it's a bold solution which will stabilize Ypsilanti and provide plenty of opportunity for the city to remain strong into the future. Much like all of SCIT's arguments Karen fails to provide even a hint of what should actually be done. The reason? She and her cronies don't want the public to know it but they actually want Ypsi to go broke, to be dissolved by an EM. Vote Yes twice on May 8 to ensure Ypsilanti's future is vital and secure and doesn't fall into the hands of bankers and state appointed politicians.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

Yes, I don't see the "no" voters as having any solutions. This isn't a personal attack, just a statement of facts as I see them. Therefore I join the chorus of "shame" with the other writers. And noting that others do not use their names IS a personal attack.

Lisa Bashert

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

As a homeowner and mother, I take a position diametrically opposed to Ms. Maurer. My property taxes have fallen dramatically due to lowered home values. I am willing to pay a little of that back in income tax to preserve city services. I will be voting YES to both the debt millage and the city income tax. Our city staff has already been reduced drastically in the 20 years since I've moved here. I wanted to live in the city in order to take advantage of urban city services -- like recycling, street sweeping, police, fire/rescue, lovely parks, walkable businesses. If I wanted to maintain a septic tank, plow my own road, and haul my own recycling, I'd have chosen the township -- and I believe many younger people also value the community & sustainability of in-town life. The income tax will help preserve these valuable services -- and the community will have to continue to strategize together to come up with further tools to enhance our city. I think Ms. Maurer and other SCIT proponents don't want to pay to provide city services for all residents (they can easily afford to provide their own) no matter what. I think we have to join together to provide for all -- so I'll be voting YES to both proposals on May 8.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

I would be careful before you start spouting off about how much money people have and what they can afford to pay. Is a 28% increase in your taxes is reasonable? I think not. I will be voting no to both proposals.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

The property taxes were enough to keep us from buying a house in Ypsilanti.

greg, too

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

Nope. I just moved out of Ypsi too. Great city, horrible government, oppressive taxes that will be on the increase, and failing schools.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

You are not alone!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

I love how three anonymous people who don't have the courage to put their real name next to their opinions get to attack Ms. Mauer for expressing her opinion and get away with saying things like "Shame on you" or that she is an ungrateful "complainer". FYI, any good debate coach will tell you that if you have to resort to personal attacks, you've admitted that you've lost the debate.


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Strange how people want other people to invest in Ypsi, but those that do are vilified for trying to make it a workable option. Strange indeed


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

You go Stephen!! When do we get to vote for you for mayor?

June Gordon

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Karen Maurer decided to write a letter to the editor to complain that she doesn't want to pay for the services that keep Ypsilanti safe and great to live in, even though she makes her living off of the fact that people want to be in Ypsilanti to be close to campus and downtown - she deserves whatever commentary she gets. She should be ashamed.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

@Glen S.: Sure I don't get to vote, but I personally paid over $15,500 in property taxes in Ypsilanti last year and will again this year. FYI, my assessment values the property at twice what it is worth. How much tax did you pay? As the President & CEO of University Bank I have advocated for and backed many worthwhile loans in the City of Ypsilanti and the bank and it's customers will be hurt if Ypsilanti does not thrive in the long term. That is why I am speaking up against these tax increases. For example, in the 90s I personally broke the "red lining" in Ypsilanti. Banks were declining to lend on thr South Side of Ypsilanti. I went in person to the offices of every Pastors in Ypsilanti who would meet with me and invited them and their congregations to come do business with University Bank. As a result, by 2000, 13% of our customers were black (vs. 7% county-wide) and the FDIC gave us its top "Outstanding" rating for Community Reinvestment and Community Service. I am rooting for the long term success of the city both personally and professionally. Go pick another fight, one you can actually win with facts and not personal attacks!!


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

The Save Ypsi campaign is the one pulling for a debate. Karen Maurer and the rest of the SCIT campaign are the ones who don't have the respect for voters to engage in a debate.

Glen S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

I love how someone who doesn't even live in Ypsilanti -- and who will therefore not have to live with increased crime, blight, etc., that will results from the cuts that will be necessary if these measures don't pass -- is so concerned about our local affairs.

City Confidential

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

The problem with this guest column is that the author fails to mention what will happen as a result of a no vote. The proposals are the only plan in place that addresses the fact that without additional revenue, Ypsilanti will suffer significant cuts to basic public safety services and quality of life services. That hurts property values as much or more than these tax proposals. Many people can cope with taxes, but no one wants to live in cities where they don't feel safe and where the city is not kept up. I moved to Ypsilanti knowing that it had a higher millage rate - but it has beautiful homes, lovely neighborhoods, friendly neighbors - all in walking distance to downtown and EMU. And the price was right! The amount that I saved on the cost of my home, over Ann Arbor prices, means that a higher millage rate doesn't even bring my dollar amount of taxes up to Ann Arbor dollar costs. Living in a city may cost more than living in a township, but that's because it has benefits that townships don't have: students/EMU staff who want to be close to campus, folks who want a walkable downtown, lovers of historic homes and gardens, close-nit neighborhoods. Those of us who want those things are willing to pay for them. Mrs. Maurer wants to have her cake and eat it too. Shame on her.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

My point is made..."the only plan". The fact that this is the "only plan" is where my real outrage comes in.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

Glen S.: "Modest additional tax"? There is nothing *modest* about Ypsilanti's current or proposed taxes. The combination of an income tax and the highest real estate property taxes in the state will be toxic for the city's long term economic future. "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)."


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Lovaduck, many democrats are against these measures and I do not expect that policing or fire protection will stop.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

But HERE I cannot agree with Mr. Ranzini. What is Ypsi to do, just descend into anarchy more than it already has? How are they to pay for police and fire and settle the debt? I don't see any solutions except the usual GOP "cut taxes and let the chips fall where they may" philosophy!


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

We have an opportunity to preserve our most crucial city services. These proposals will do that. Stable Police and fire protection are crucial to keeping our community as a comfortable, walkable, safe-to-live in place. Voting them down will continue Ypsilanti's property value slide and continue the spiral into something considerable less valuable and less safe. I too have a problem with someone who has received so much corporate welfare through tax breaks to be working so hard to break down those very city services - sometimes you should say "THANK YOU" instead of complaining. Ypsilanti needs its services at the current level not less. There isn't more to cut. VOTE YES, on Both.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

The poor graduation rates of the Ypsilanti Public have everything to do with the long term decline of the city of Ypsilanti. "In Ypsilanti, proficiency rates were much lower, with math proficiency rates dipping as low as 9.6 percent for third-graders. Fourth-graders did the best, with 23.7 percent scoring proficient... Sixth-graders in Ypsilanti had the highest proficiency rate for the district in reading at 52 percent, and seventh-graders the lowest, 39.6 percent.". See:


Mon, Apr 16, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Ann Arbor Public Schools opens up to out of district students and there are children whose families live in Yspilanti but the children attend public school in Ann Arbor. Schools have everything to do with the health of a city. Our struggling school districts greatly affect who moves here and away from here.


Sun, Apr 15, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

Absolutely! And the worst part is that until we get real leadership in city hall with real innovation we will be stuck in this "spiral". Vote No! And pay attention to that City Manager hiring. Someone with real ideas in a city our size can make change and do so in a relatively short period. Someone that can really direct our council and give them options is soooooo needed. We've not had that since I've been here.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

To a strong degree Mr. Ranzini's right! I knew twoyoung couples who fixed up homes and loved Ypsilanti until their children entered the schools. They then sadly moved to Ann Arbor to give their kids a better break.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

@lorie: many people are only willing to buy a home where their children can get a good quality free public education. When they bypass Ypsilanti because of the dysfunctional public schools, this keeps property prices depressed and property taxes are lower than they would be, if the schools had been doing an excellent job. Fix the schools and you will fix part of the problem everyone is debating here.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

I don't disagree with you on this issue but it has ZERO to do with the city finance issues. Its a separate entity completely. lets not confuse the issue

Glen S.

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Ms. Maurer and her husband have been very successful here in Ypsilanti, in large measure by asking for, and receiving, special tax breaks (funded by you and me -- the taxpayers) that helped make many of their investment properties possible. Now, when Ypsilanti is facing a financial crisis that threatens deep cuts to Police and Fire protection (that protect you and me), Ms. Maurer says she doesn't support a modest additional tax that will keep the City financially solvent and protect these essential services. Even more disappointing, Ms. Maurer is a leader in the campaign to defeat these taxes -- yet seems not to understand some basic facts about the City's fiscal crisis, or about the May 8 ballot proposals. Just two examples: * The tax proposals have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the Ypsilanti Public Schools. * The $ 9 million "rainy day fund" that she refers to is mostly money that is already *committed* to pay for things like pension benefits, etc. -- and even if it were available to pay for services -- would only delay the fiscal crisis for 2-3 more years. For more actual *facts* about these proposals, please visit:

joe golder

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

The tax dollars were set aside to help rehab old buildings like the ones the Maurer's have invested so much of there life into! Thank goodness someone had the forward thinking to set aside money for this purpose. Downtown Ypsilanti has been eastern washtenaw county's downtown forever! No wonder none of the surounding TWPS want to play! It's time to stop feeding the 800 lb turkey's in the room! Heck!, if we could get rid of all the conflict of interest and merge with the TWP's, A2 would be in the greater ypsilanti area!

Craig Lounsbury

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

"Don't raise my taxes bro" "(1)Success depends on reasonable tax rates, (2)encouraging people to move to the community, and (3) improving our schools" your solution to #1 is obvious. #2 is a flawed concept. Encouraging people to move does nothing. Only if the actually do move does it measure. #3 is a nice slogan, who doesn't want better schools? Short of offering a solution to improving schools all your really saying is....Don't raise my taxes bro.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

If you want the value of your homes and properties to decline, vote for increased taxes.

Richard Wickboldt

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 11:10 a.m.

Taxing based upon land ownership is not fair. Value of real estate is not an exact science and the market setting the value surely doesn't work. Look at the real estate bubbles in the past. Income and sales tax is a fair way to insure we all pay taxes. Higher real estate taxes will directly decrease the value of the property your taxing. Setting taxes based upon votingof milages in a system with such low voter turn out doesn't seem very fair either. Voting in May on taxing yourself... gosh this sounds like madness.

Mark Hergott

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

While I find the income tax to be indefensible, I see no choice but to support the water street millage. The debt is not going away. Police and Fire pensions can be negotiated, (well, before cops or firefighters retire), and services and infrastructure can be cut back. The water street debt will not be ignored. So, I will vote for the millage and not for the income tax.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 2:44 p.m.

To me it's the other way around - I would support an income tax before a millage increase as being more equitable. A flood of houses up for sale by people who can no longer afford their property taxes will do nothing but depress Ypsilanti home values even further, resulting in a net loss in property tax collections in the long run.