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Posted on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 7 a.m.

After cutting to the bone, Ypsilanti needs a city income tax and Water Street millage

By Guest Column


The Ypsilanti Police Department is down to a total of 28 staff and officers, says City Council Member MIke Bodary, while staffing at the Fire Department now stands at 18.

Steve Pepple |

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

The citizens of Ypsilanti will soon decide whether or not to implement a city income tax, as well as a millage to finance the Water Street debt.

Those opposed to these measures have loudly stated their opposition to any new taxes, but have offered no concrete solutions to the problems leading up to the current state of city finances. They have been invited to debate these issues in a public setting, but have declined to do so.


Mike Bodary is a member of the Ypsilanti City Council.

The “Vote No” campaign is well financed and able to buy multiple mailings, billboards, “clever” cartoons, and to snatch up web domains meant to mislead those looking for information on the “Vote Yes” campaign by linking directly to their sites.

They have cited the city’s $9 million fund balance, while knowing full well that this fund balance is almost entirely committed to pending obligations.

I have been told by some members of the Vote No campaign that it would be best for the governor to appoint an emergency manager so that union contracts could be voided, the city could declare bankruptcy, and the EM could negotiate with bondholders and pensioners for debt forgiveness.

Vote No campaigners actually believe that the EM would never cut police and fire and that somehow money from Lansing would be forthcoming to maintain the current level of public safety services.

It is important to note that despite budget cutting to the bare bones, Ypsilanti’s crime rate has dropped and the city’s rate of solving crimes is the best in the County. An emergency manager could undo all of the progress the city has made in these important areas.

Citizens need to understand that insurance rates will rise if fire and police protection are compromised, and this could cost property owners as much or more than a city income tax.

In 2007, there was another proposal to raise an income tax and at the time, four current members of Ypsilanti City Council opposed its passage, myself included.

At that time, we had projected increases in revenues resulting from a projected 3% or better increase in property values. If those expectations had borne out, there would be no reason to re-visit the issue of a city income tax.

However, the reality is, as most people understand, we have had catastrophic downturns in the economy, with resulting deep losses of property values. Less state shared revenues, slowdown in business development and high mortgage foreclosures have worked against efforts for financial health.

With new revenues from a city income tax and the Water Street millage, we will have some breathing space to keep Ypsilanti out of the hands of an emergency financial manager and keep current levels of public services. We will have time to put renewed efforts into marketing our city as a wonderful community in which to live, as well as demanding better efforts from our commercial real estate agent to find appropriate developers for Water Street.

The city is as lean now as we believe it is safe to be. Here are the facts:

• We have cut city employees from 140 to 73.

• Our Police Department has 28 staff and officers, and the Fire Department is at 18 while providing 24/7- 365 services.

• Core departments have been eliminated or outsourced to part-time contracts.

• Bargaining units have taken pay cuts, personnel cuts, and the non-bargained for employees are taking mandatory furlough days.

We can no longer rely only on property taxes to fund vital city services, and we need to diversify our sources of revenue. I urge Ypsilanti voters to vote yes on May 8.

Michael Bodary is a member of the Ypsilanti City Council, representing the city’s 2nd Ward.


Ypsilanti City Resident

Fri, Apr 27, 2012 : 11:07 a.m.

After reading all of the comments, it appears that 99% will vote NO. Where are all of the YES voters?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

I do not live in the city of Ypsilanti but my husband worked as a temp for the city a few years ago. He worked in the fall picking up leaves and raking leaves and these people did not work more then 5 hours out of there 8 hour shift. They would drive from the yard to the site, 15 to 20 minutes before 1st break they would drive back to the yard, after break they would drive back to the leave site, 15 to 20 minutes before lunch back to the yard taking an hour lunch not 30 minutes, after lunch they would drive back to the leave site, 15 to 20 minutes before 2nd break they would drive back to the yard, after break back to the leave site, 15 to 20 minutes before the end of the day they would drive back to the yard. When my husband went to talked to the supervisor, guess what they nolonger needed him. Got to love Unions!


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

like all workers everywhere, it just takes a few bad apples to give UNIONs a bad name.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

One phrase: Emergency Financial Manager


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

Politicans play and taxpayers pay...water st was a joke from day one just like ann arbors new city hall, bombshelter and art...given the combination to the vault by an uninformed electorate and directed by special interests, pretty soon the color green is replaced by a stack of IOU' get what you vote for....

Michael Bodary

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 2:01 a.m.

I asked Ann to correct the 73 "general fund"employees to 93 and they agreed to do it. However when they printed this they used the earlier version where I forgot to add the sentence that "20 employees are not in the General Fund, but are paid for by fuel taxes etc. My apologies. Black Stallion is naive if he thinks that voting no voids any health care benefits that were contracted for by anyone. Mark H it take two partners to form an authority and after crunching numbers the Township has not come back to the table.


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

Notfromhere, the township is interested in better police service than it is willing to pay for, from the sheriff's dept. or anyone else. They used to pay for a large group of deputies who were dedicated specifically to the township, which has several very high-crime areas. After the sheriff proposed increases to the per-deputy costs, so that the county wasn't actually subsidizing the township's police services, the township fought with the county for while and then cut back on their contract amount, and therefore their police services. They want coverage and service similiar to what they would have if they had their own dept., but they don't want to pay for it. YPD provides excellent services and the township stands to benefit from those services compared to the bare bones coverage they are now paying for, but they don't want to pay for it.

greg, too

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:02 a.m.

I agree with Rep Bodary. The past mistakes of the city council, way farther back than when Bodary came in on the anti tax platform, put those benefits in place and the city has to pay em. It's just the right thing to do and, even if it wasn't, I don't think the city has the option not to. And, they could bail on them, who would then want to work for a city that bails on it's obligations? To Mark H's point, why would the township want to get involved in any kind of contract, first responders or otherwise, with Ypsi? Sure, the township is not doing all that great themselves, but why tie yourself to a sinking anchor? Even after the tax proposal passes, what would be in it for them?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 1:48 a.m.

No emergency manager is the best argument you have. With you all the way on that one. This however is laughable..."It is important to note that despite budget cutting to the bare bones, Ypsilanti's crime rate has dropped and the city's rate of solving crimes is the best in the County." don't get me wrong, we have GREAT officers but using this is quite misleading. How can we continue to cut police yet set them up for failure by using political rhetoric that sets unrealistic community expectations? Have the police unions gotten behind this? Why or why not?


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

If you live in Ypsilanti and own property, move now. Sell your house. With this kind of income tax talk property values will continue to decline. Run for the hills. Save yourself.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:24 p.m.

Ypsilanti has a revenue problem because it has too many poor people. The politicians that run Ypsilanti have now come to the belief that by excessively punishing rich people who are foolish enough to move to their blighted community will solve their revenue problem. Bravo!


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:03 p.m.

The so-called plan is based on assumptions about property value trends that the City had not articulated, and does not consider in the least the downward pressure on total taxable value that might occur precisely because of the new taxes. The burden of proof is on the proposers of this policy, who have yet to demonstrate the viability of a proposal that could instead set off a self-defeating downward spiral in property values. Rejection of the taxes could also provide leverage in negotiating with bargaining units, and the same "cut to the bone" argument, almost word for word, was claimed in 2007, the last time the income tax failed. Please nod in thanks for the thousands of dollars that the "no" campaign saved you over the past four year. Sometimes doing nothing is better than something.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Concrete solution: cut pay and benefits, move to a 401k


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

Ok. Now what? No city employees left except the clerk and some snow plow drivers. Now what? Commitments to prior employees still have to be met. Who is left to market the city? Who is left to pursue federal grants to assist with the brownfield remediation necessary to make Water Street a more attractive parcel for potential development? Do you think it will be cheaper to have the sheriff's dept. handle police calls in the city? They have benefits, also. The sheriff can charge pretty much whatever he wants for deputies, and has Ypsi Township has seen, the cost goes up every year for service that is nothing like the police coverage and service residents now enjoy. In the meantime, the bond debt is increasing every year. Where's the money coming from to pay it?

Martin Church

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

I am tiered of this they will not debate opinion. I am ready and willing to debate you anytime. I am not a member of the vote no committee, I am a member of this community and I am willing to stand for my opinion. lets deal with the real issues. in 1999 we were told this was a bad deal that would lead to increase taxes. The city council moved ahead with the plan to remove these business and taxpayers. When problems came up instead of reevaluate the costs they moved ahead and made commitments to spend. Now the bill is due and you want us to spend more of our hard earned money to support a bad investment. even Warren Buffet would withdrawal funds form this sink hole. On til there is a better plan with a real deadline and plan for the elimination of these taxes I will VOTE NO.

The Black Stallion3

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

I agree with you 100% and feel you stated the point very well. All we can do is hope people will pay attention and vote NO.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Mr. Bodray has his facts wrong. According the city website, there are 93 employees not the 73 he erroneously claims. It looks like he forget to include the entire public works department in an effort to scare us into thinking staff has shrunk by half. How can a councilman not know these things? When is he up for election? Who is going to run against him?


Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

How can anyone say core services have not been cut? That's just ridiculous. Police and fire numbers are at an all-time low. The remaining city staff members are each performing the work of 2 and three people. The fact that the remaining employees are somehow managing to keep critical functions going doesn't mean that important things are not falling through the cracks. Vote however you want, but at least deal with facts. Core services have been cut severely.

Steve Pierce

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

Here is a familiar refrain. "There is no more fat to cut, except cutting core services." - Paul Tait, who is co-chairman of Ypsilanti's Future, a pro-income tax group Except Paul said this in 2007 not in 2012. The City Income Tax was defeated, and despite all the dire predictions, they didn't come true. The City over the next 5-years eliminated some 25 vacant positions all the while not cutting core services. It is amazing what other alternatives can be found when the voters snap shut the pocket book and say No.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

If I recall correctly from past city council meetings that I have attended I dont believe that DPW employees are General Fund employees. I seem to recall that their pay is financed through various state and federal street grants/funds. At least that was the answer given when asked why DPW has not been cut when YPD and YFD has been drastically cut over the past decade. That may be why DPW was not included. If so, it def should have been clearly stated as such however.

Ron Granger

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

This article ignores other Michigan cities where raising taxes, and income taxes, have failed. It suggests we allow the people responsible for this failure to maintain their power and decision making. They could not manage in good times, how can they manage in difficult times? Why should we continue to tolerate those who have failed? If this was a private corporation, these managers would be FIRED.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:09 p.m.

Other than Lois Richardson, there is no one still on the council who was "responsible for this failure" or who "could not manage in good times."

Glen S.

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

If this were a private corporation -- especially of a large bank or insurance company --these managers would have received a government bailout!

Josh Budde

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

I will be voting yes on both the income tax and water street millage. I like police service and mowed parks. I also am opposed to having some outside Emergency Manager come in and gut the city government-which is what will happen if the city can't service its debts and obligations.

Patrick Quinn

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

The current fiscal model for Ypsilanti is completely broken. Adding significantly higher taxes to an already over burdened community is a recipe for disaster. We've seen this play out in some many other communities. Higher taxes leads to declining population and property values, causing higher budget deficits. This in turn requires additional tax levies. Who in their right mind would move into a community which has not only the highest property taxes in the state but an income tax on top of it. The answer. No one. Young families are the lifeblood of any community. They will vote with their feet. There are some many other attractive options. We do not live in a vacuum people. It's time to take a regional approach to delivering municipal services. This requires consolidation and merging of services. It also requires our city leaders to put aside their own positions and look out for the common good. Let's start by eliminating salaries for elected officials in Ypsilanti. In most other small communities, these are purely volunteer positions. I urge everybody to think this through clearly. Adding these taxes will delay the inevitable for a short time, but we will be right back in the red after our community is slowly destroyed by these toxic policies. Mike you sound like an intelligent person. I'll be happy to discuss this with you. Please do not drive this city into ruin.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 11:29 p.m.

Woman in Ypsilanti, I think you are spot on. High crime will force people to abandon their homes, even homes they can afford, more quickly than anything else, including high taxes, and crime will destroy any chance for property value recovery.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 5:25 p.m.

I agree that a regional approach would be best. However, I would expect a lot of resistance from the surrounding communities who obviously are filled with people who would rather have fewer services from government and lower taxes. Why would anyone move to a city with high income taxes? I don't know. Why would anyone move to a city that doesn't have a lot of police protection and thus higher crime levels than the surrounding areas? For me, that is what it has come down to. I will not move if I have to pay more in taxes even though I don't like taxes any more than the next person. I will on the other hand walk the heck away from my underwater mortgage if I stop feeling safe in my home. Since I enjoy living in Ypsilanti and would like to continue to live in Ypsilanti, I am going to vote to pay more.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

What municipality would want to share services with the City? The city has nothing to offer a partner for services. Lets be real - if the taxes don't pass, there will be an Emergency Manager in the city shortly, and no one wants that.

Josh Budde

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

Grand Rapids has a 1.5% city income tax. It sees population growth every year and is consistently voted as one of the best places in Michigan to live. I think we'd be in good company. Regional approaches do not work when the 'region' has nothing to contribute. Ypsilanti Township pays negligible taxes and has low property values and we could never fund an appropriate level of fire, police, library and parks services using their tax base.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

I intend to vote no on the property tax increase, at least until it is reworded in such a way to tell me what I am actually voting for. I think it's foolish to give anybody a "blank check", which is what giving the city council the authority to levy a millage of their choosing is. Maybe the millage could be reworded for the November election in such a way to spell out exactly what the increase would be, but it's been my experience that politicians with extra money never return it to the taxpayers; usually they start bickering about how to spend it - for the good of the community, of course.

greg, too

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 4:48 a.m.

Why try and pay it off when you have the taxpayers footing the bill?


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

Of course it is. But with an unlimited millage in hand, the city has no incentive to save money elsewhere, or to find alternative means of paying off a portion of the debt. Maybe part of the rainy day fund should be used to actively market the Water St. property. Putting up a For Sale sign is not going to attract anybody.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

The millage is very clearly defined as being for and only for the Water Street debt. The city has zero ability to direct those funds elsewhere.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

JB1- "These People" are many of your friends and neighbors, emphasis on MANY, many small donations make for a bigger pot. This is not rich folks not wanting to pay taxes; this is about middle class folks trying to hold on by their fingernails to their middle class status with everyone in their wallets. This is about homeowners paying too much for Ypsilanti property taxes, too much for health insurance, too much for car insurance, too much for gas to get to work, too much for food in the grocery store, too much for a barren field nobody wants an affordable condo on, too much to the state who doesn't give any back. It is about not trusting 4 people to vote in the interests of their constituents.

Steve Pierce

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Josh, you quoted Grand Rapids as having a City Income Tax, they do. It is even more than Ypsi propose tax. GR is 1.30%. Yet the property taxes in GR are half that of Ypsilanti today. If this millage increases go through, Ypsi property tax rate will be 78.0761, and Grand Rapids is 33.462 mills. That will mean Ypsi tax rate is 233% higher than Grand Rapids. I would vote for a City Income Tax if we could have anything close to GR tax rate. The following piece was in last week discussing the Grand Rapids taxes

Steve Pierce

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 2:57 a.m.

Josh, according to the 5-year plan from City Council, your property taxes will increase $1,136.79. You will be paying over $5800 per year in property taxes which means you are paying over $480 a month in property taxes. The very highest property taxes in teh entire State. Plus they want a City Income tax which is likely another $600 for you. If $1700 more per year in taxes is no big deal for you, that is cool, but for many it is a crushing increase.


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Josh, you are simply wrong about the financing. There is no comparing GR to Ypsi, sorry.

Josh Budde

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Its not though-the campaign is financed almost entirely by a few individuals who have a vested interest in there not being a city income tax. Grand Rapids is another city with an income tax-1.5% for residents, and %0.75 for non-resident workers-they're also consistently held up as one of the best cities in Michigan.

The Black Stallion3

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

If you want public employee's to have a pension and health care for retirement, something most tax payers do not have, then by all means vote yes, But, if you feel that these public employee's should share in these hard economic times vote NO. It is us the tax payers that are paying for all of these benefits they are unwilling to give up so it is up to us if we want to continue funding them. When the public employee's are willing to come down to the same level as us hard working tax payers I will consider voting for more taxes, however they should not be necessary if we can save all the benefit money.

The Black Stallion3

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Gosh...I don't think I could ever convince you otherwise .....all I can do is try.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 5:19 p.m.

I've actually already decided to vote yes so your comment has not actually influenced me. But, if I hadn't yet decided, it would have. Why? I think it is very important to provide public employees with decent pensions and health care in their retirement. And even though I am just as angry as anyone that my private sector job doesn't do that, taking such things away from public employees isn't going to help my own retirement. In fact, quite the opposite. All employees, public and private, exist in the same labor market. Things like retirement benefits are part of a person's compensation and along with wages/salary are part of a person's total compensation. All employers compete with each other for labor and if you take away a benefit from the public sector, you make it less likely that an employer in the private sector competing for the same employee to offer the benefit. So I would say, if you want private sector employers to offer things like pensions and health care, you should vote YES for the tax. And if you don't like it that the taxpayers are footing the bill, vote out our governor and our current state legislature who are giving tax breaks to millionaires and businesses thus forcing the little guy (you and me) to shoulder an increasing tax burden if we still want the same basic services. Trust me, Ypsilanti's problems are not that we compensate city employees too well.

Mark Hergott

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

We can no longer rely on the four square miles alone to provide city services. If this city income tax had been offered 20 years ago. Raising property taxes to the Headlee and Proposal A limit, after a bad land speculation deal, and promising what we can't afford to future retirees is what has brought us to this point. New taxes, and they are new, will only delay what needs to happen: Drastic, painful, and vicious cuts to everything that will impair the city's ability to function. All is not doomed. We have mutual aid and a box alarm system for the fire department. Washtenaw County Sheriff's office is not the only possible provider of police services to Ypsilanti Township. If we can contract with the township to provide policing, sure... we lose officers in the four square miles, but we made a huge step towards a police authority that will take an incredible amount of burden off of council's shoulders in terms of funding and collective bargaining. The point is that we have options outside of our four square miles. It's time to look at them.

greg, too

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 4:54 a.m.

Why would anyone want to partner with a sinking ship?


Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

You know, I saw that billboard and though--"if these people can afford a flippin' billboard, they can certainly afford to pay some taxes!" Seems like the biggest opponents to the tax scenarios are the Ypsi's wealthiest, including many who have benefited greatly from pretty big tax breaks. Doesn't exactly give me a lot of motivation to support their cause.

greg, too

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 : 4:47 a.m.

Have you seen the pro people, asking for $500 or whatever you can afford? Both sides are the wealthy, fighting it out to figure out how the middle and lower classes will lose their homes. Either way, the working class gets hosed in this.

Josh Budde

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

I agree whole heartedly. I like the level of service that I receive in the City and I am willing to pay to continue to serve them. I also think that we should pay our city workers a fair wage and provide them with retirement benefits after long and productive service to the community. City workers aren't getting rich working in the Parks Department or the city planning office-why do we turn on them as soon as times are hard? If we have to pay a piddling amount of additional taxes...what of it?