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Posted on Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:26 a.m.

The myth of tax flight from Ypsilanti - an unsafe city, not higher taxes will drive people away

By Letters to the Editor

I moved to Ypsilanti in 2008. I moved here because it has something I could not find just anywhere - historic homes, in good condition, which are affordable. It has houses that are comparable to the most sought after neighborhoods in Ann Arbor at a fraction of the price.

In fact, Ypsilanti has a lot of things that you can’t find just anywhere: gorgeous older neighborhoods with mature trees and extraordinary gardens, housing that is within walking/biking distance of EMU, Depot Town and Downtown, easy public transit, and just a generally welcoming and interesting community.

Some people are afraid that higher taxes will cause people to move out of Ypsilanti or avoid ever coming here. They are wrong. People look at many issues ahead of tax rates before choosing where to put down roots or build a business. They consider quality of life factors: safety, walk-ability / transportation, arts, culture, housing stock, neighborhood characteristics. They also look at things that they cannot get in the surrounding communities: proximity to employment and the university, a viable downtown, great neighborhoods in which to settle. When a city is no longer safe, with neighborhoods on guard due to crime, windows with bars and homes prominently displaying their security systems, then people move out or avoid ever coming here in the first place. When it costs too much to insure a home or car because insurance companies have to pay claims due to theft, vandalism, inadequate fire protection and inadequate police protection, then people move or avoid coming to the city.

When parents hesitate to let their college-bound children come to school at EMU because it doesn’t seem safe or clean or attractive in Ypsilanti, and when young families or senior citizens decide that the affordable housing isn’t worth the risk or the hassle to live here, then people move or avoid coming here in the first place. I am voting YES on BOTH proposals because I know that quality of life in a city is what really makes the difference in whether people decide to flee or not. Public safety, city services and infrastructure maintenance will be deciding factors for people coming to or staying in the city.

The reality is that without passing these measures, our city’s quality of life will deteriorate rapidly. That is what will cause the flight. Those of us who can afford to leave will leave. Those of us who cannot leave will suffer. Please join me in voting YES on BOTH proposals on May 8.

Erika Nelson



Sat, Jun 2, 2012 : 11:31 p.m.

I live in Ypsilanti and its not as bad as people say it is. I feel safe everyday. But I do live in the type of neighborhood where none of the neighbors know each other and the houses range from 2300sqft- 3400sqft and I I've always thought it was funny that if you put one of those houses in Ann arbor it would be like 500 or 600k but in ypsi it would be in the 200-300k range


Mon, May 7, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

The problem with Ypsilanti is too many poor people live there who make bad life decisions on a daily basis. Consequently, the only tax that will improve Ypsilanti is a regressive tax. A tax that repels poor people will improve Ypsilanti. But, an income tax that repels wealthy people will make Ypsilanti worse. This is why an income tax is a bad idea. It is also why taxes are a bad idea. Liberal hatred of productive people and work is not a good reason to institute another income tax at another level of government. Maybe the Ypsilanti political class should move to France where socialism is off to a brilliant start. And from where the wealthy are moving to London.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

A more active discussion about this matter is occurring at yesterday's budget article:


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 9:56 p.m.

holy crap, Erika. You are paying about $2000/year too much in taxes, AT LEAST. OMG. and you support more? Seriously, have you ever looked at the tax rates in surrounding areas? For what you're paying in taxes per month, you COULD afford to buy that house in Ann Arbor


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Joe, get your head out of the sand and do the math. Erika's house in Ann Arbor would be worth double. Ypsi's millage rate is not double Ann Arbor's. Macfly??

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

This is pretty much the reason why I am most likely to vote Yes on both proposals next Tuesday.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

what is?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

What's with the 'Photo Gallery' in the title? I was hoping for photos of people rehashing the same old debate that has been going on for weeks/months now.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

We moved into the city for the exact reasons Erika speaks of and, given our experience with crime in the time we've owned in Normal park, crime is my biggest pressure to leave. I believe strongly that we need to pass the millage and the income tax to maintain those vital city services - especially police protection. Our police force in particulary efficient and effective. They cost less than the sheriff and the nearest State patrol office is in Brighton. We have an opportunity to continue have a solid, efficiently run city that remains under local control instead of in the hands of some policital hack from Lansing or at the whim of a township. We are recovering and I belive our City has been helpful in that recovery. Lets contiue that progress.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

notfrom, after re-reading yesterday's budget article, I believe I misinterpreted the info about the increase expected in the pension millage for next year. The sentence said the millage is set to increase by 1 percent to 7.something percent. I see now that it meant it's going up by 1 percent, for a total of 7.whatever. I initially thought it meant the millage was going up anywhere from 1 to 7 percent. Either way, though, we're still better off and will pay less as taxpayers in the long run if more employees are paying in.

greg, too

Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

Ypsivet, thanks for the correction on my stats as I was wrong. But a 27% drop in property values, while also adding on 22 mils more in taxes than the part of the township that I reside in (pre new millage and income tax), is not exactly good either. My wife will pay less to work in Ypsi by moving out of than staying in it and buying property and investing in the city. How does that makes sense to anyone? How does that make the young professionals in the city want to invest if they can pay less to live somewhere else and then drive into Depot Town and Downtown from the townships or A2? If the point was to get money out of the evil EMU people who commute in and then leave, why have a bigger income tax on citizens of the city? All of my ideas for plans have been shot down, so I will not offer up any, but there have to be better options than this. The lack of foresight to bring these tax proposals up at the 11th hour instead of years ago (you know, when your anti tax city council was installed after they helped shoot down the last tax proposals) when they saw it coming should send a message about the pro active-ness of your city government and need for reform. I've met the city council and they all seemed like very nice people who truly do love the city, but there are serious issues afoot if taxation is the only solution to every single problem. And on May 9th, please recycle all of the signs from your yards instead of throwing them in the trash.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:32 p.m.

Notfromhere, property value in the city is not, in fact, dropping faster than property in the surrounding township. According to info published in an article, for 2011, Ypsi City assessed values dropped 2.5 percent, compared to a 7.8 percent drop for Ypsi Township. Between 2009 and 2011, Ypsi City assessed values dropped a total of 27.9 percent, while Ypsi Township's dropped a total of 35.3%. Even adding in preliminary 2012 figures, Ypsi City is still showing less of a drop in values since in 2009 than the township.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

Joe, the pension millage rate could go up anywhere from 1 to over 7 percent next year. That's a pretty big swing. As I said, the more employees paying in (and the fewer making immediate withdrawals), the less taxpayers have to kick in. What about that is hard to understand? Personally, as a taxpayer, I'd rather see it go up 1 percent, which means less money out of residents' pockets, than 7 percent or more (more money out of residents') pockets.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

The state police post on Whittaker/Huron is CLOSED. It is only a parking area for troopers to go on break now. I have this info directly from a trooper that I know and from the state police website,4643,7-123-59471_59474---,00.html


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

notfromhere exactly. cant say it any better than that.

greg, too

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

One of the reasons why there may not be flight is that people are so upside down on their homes they cannot leave outside of simply walking away from their homes. They will now be left with a tough decision, walk away and lose their home and credit or stay and pay taxes that are higher than most of the rest of the state on a property that is dropping in value faster than those around it. And they would be staying in a city with rising crime, low per capita spending on services such as a parks and first responders, and a failing school system that is looking to gut itself before it consolidates with an even worse system. This is why I left. This is why I did not buy a property for less than half of what the person before paid for it, one of the various beautiful older homes we toured that needed copious amounts of repairs because the past owners were unable to keep it up. In having an outside, unemotional, and non financially staked position in the city, it was a quick and easy decision to leave. I love the city of Ypsi and will continue to support local businesses such as the co-op and various restaurants and bars, but I could not support these horrible financial decisions, past, present, or future or tie my families financial future to them. And there is a state police post on Huron in the township.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

YpsiVeteran, I'm not "predicting" a higher police pension millage. it's a fact. it's already on the books for 2016 or 2017, i forget. But look it up on Ypsi City's website. That millage increase is happening no matter what you vote here.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

One good way to contain police pension costs is to keep as many of officers paying into the system as possible, not create an atmosphere where they all feel they have to leave immediately to keep from losing the benefits they've already earned. The more police employees you have paying 10 percent of their gross wages into the fund, the less taxpayers have to pay into the fund. Voting no because you are predicting a higher police pension millage rate in the future is a sure way to guarantee a higher rate will be necessary.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

lorie, I believe there is a state police office on Whittaker in ypsi township. secondly, your numbers about your local police dept costing less than the sheriff's dept are misleading. You know full well that one of ypsi's biggest budget issues is police pension. and you'll know it a lot better in a few years when the pension millage jumps 5 or 6 mills.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

I'm sure this millage will work out just as well as the AATA millage which is why I'm going with no. Now a specific public safety millage might be a good move. Obviously not one that the 'powers that be' want to do and I don't trust them to use any extra funds this might generate for that purpose.

Glen S.

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

I agree with Erika. The small additional amount I would pay in taxes each month if both of these taxes pass is a small price to pay to maintain critical services like police and fire. I would rather pay an additional tax -- and keep these dollars circulating here in my own community -- than pay more (possibly much more) in higher insurance premiums, home security systems, etc., while watching my neighborhood crumble and the value of my home disappear. So far, NO ONE has come forward with any plan that explains we can maintain these services without additional tax revenue. That is why I plan to vote "Yes" on both ballot issues on May 8.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

Change the subject and evade the point all you want. "Our city leaders will come forward and say..." "They''ll say income tax revenue was not as we projected..." etc. etc. Unless you're claiming some kind of super powers, I stand by my comment. No one knows what will happen.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

YpsiVeteran, thats not true, I have plenty of basis to suggest that businesses and people would prefer to live in a city that doesnt have an income tax. Especially when it's not the economic hub of the area (like Grand Rapids is) and especially when no other city or township around it has that economic disadvantage. Ypsi is a "sister city", at best. Such cities can not afford to enact an income tax if they are not driving the county economy. the predictions for lost tax revenue due to this tax increase are more realistic than the predictions for increased revenue.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Joe, you have no more basis to make those dire predictions than someone else has to predict the opposite. No one knows what's going to happen in the next few years. The stock market could boom, making increased city pension contributions less likely. The state could continue to increase revenue sharing, the state could further reduce revenue one knows. We have to deal with the realities of today, not positive or negative fantasies of the future.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

The problem is that this tax increase is not a "plan" either. In a few short years, the city leaders will come forward and say "our revenue projections were off, we need more of your money" and you'll happily vote yes and not ask why they cant write a balanced budget for a tiny municipality with 20,000 people congregated in a small area. They say, property tax revenue continued to fall (people moved and foreclosed because they didnt want to pay astronomical taxes for a crumbling city). They'll say "income tax revenue was not as we projected" (imagine that, businesses not wanting to operate in the only city in the area with an income tax) You dont have a plan either. So don't fault the people that dont want to continue to throw money at poor ideas, for not having one.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Suggesting: the downward pressure on wages and benefits and the political movement to keep rolling back taxes is a national phenomenon - which cannot be solved by patchwork local taxation. Germany currently has a tax and economic profile similar to that of the United States: AS WE WERE IN THE 1950s. Germany has low public debt, higher taxation and their economy is one of the healthiest in the Western Hemisphere. Needless to add: Germany also has first rate public services. The only thing we don't have potentially compared to Germany is the discipline and unity Germans have had for a few centuries. SEE locally, ACT nationally.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

@Joe: you forget or never knew: the Nazi Party translated to English is the National Socialist Party. Germany was taken over by a dictator who INTERRUPTED economic progress and their historic economic system, which as I said, has recovered and today is back where the U.S. was (the most powerful, successful economy on Earth) in the 1950s. Meanwhile, the U.S. has sunk in a mire created by the economic elite who have systematically kept Americans fighting each other while systematically buying the (supposed) political leaders WE elect. Their biggest tool (weapon): the Republican Party. So long as Republicans succeed in peddling their formula for a feudal economy, local governments are helpless because to the falling tax base and degradation of the Middle Class toward serfdom.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

yeah, those Germans had a lot of good ideas over the past century.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

I'm with Erika. And to those who question it, the money will go to pay off Water Street so that our general fund $$ can go to pay the city employees. Like we've heard time and again, we cannot default and by law the Water Street bond has to be paid before we can pay our employees. Yes, four years ago we "made things work" though I tend to think we cut to the bone. But those of you who were in Ypsi 4 years ago can testify to the services that no longer exist. Leaves aren't picked up anymore except a few times a year and they have to be in bags - you can't just sweep them into the street anymore. Tree branches and brush aren't picked up anymore. We've lost police and fire personnel, extra police services like the citizen's police academy. There's nothing more that the city can cut and still keep it safe and functioning. I'm voting for both because I want to maintain the same level of services we already have (if they pass, budgets are NOT GOING UP - they will remain at what they are now) - I'm not interested in any more cuts!!! And for those of you who call it a debacle, you don't even know what happened apparently. A lot of the money owed on Water Street now is due to the refinancing that HAD TO BE DONE 4 years ago when these didn't pass back then. If they don't pass now, think of how much more we'll owe in interest as we try and try and try to borrow more. The smart thing to do is to pass both! And for the income tax - everyone who works in this city and doesn't live here uses our services for free. They drive our roads, call our cops, call our fire department (who responds to all medical calls), throw trash in our bins on the street and in the parks (and directly on the street and on the park ground which then has to be picked up). It's about time other people started ponying up and we spread the sacrifice around. I'm voting YES ON BOTH!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Joe, Ypsi also has one of the highest percentages of occupied tax-exempt land. See the correlation there? How about asking all who benefit from city services to share in the costs of those services, instead of just foisting the entire burden off on homeowners? The income tax spreads the costs of city services onto all users. I personally think city homeowners should be exempt from the income tax, but I didn't get to make the call.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

Having to bag leaves was not started becaue of budget cuts. The leaves were clogging the storm drains. And my leaves are still picked up weekly.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

god forbid you have to bag your leaves. Maybe it's me, but services like that SHOULD be cut, and should have been long ago. Asking the public to pay for your laziness is what's wrong with this country. Simple fact is that Ypsi has by far the highest tax rates in the county. I'd bet they are up with the highest in the state. And yet the city continually asks for more. something about insanity, repeating, etc

Martin Church

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

How will the defeat of the new taxes effect our neighborhood. come on down to the Michigan and ecorse where I live. there has been as much crime now has there was when we had money. and less officers patroling the area. I watch nightly has the hookers and drug dealers run the streets and neighborhood. More taxes will not increase the patrols or our safety. Could they add more firefighters, yes but this tax is not for that nor can it be used for those purposes. we have maxed out the amount of taxes that can be leveled for property, now the city is becoming more creative in how to steal the money we have worked hard to earn. In the mean time look at the old Ford plant on harrit. Anyone see the building occupied. Look at water street only the county wants to build on the property. Why OUR TAXES ARE TOO HIGH. Vote NO on both.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Erika has hit the nail on the head here. Ypsilanti, through the very hard work of the mayor and council, has managed to remain a vibrant healthy community despite significant cuts to public safety. There's only so much cutting that can be done before we start to hurt our home though and we're at that threshold. The real truth is that further reductions will quickly make Ypsilanti unappealing to current and potential residents and investors. Now is our time as residents to stand up and take responsibility for our city. Vote YES twice on May 8 for Ypsilanti.

Roy Munson

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

"When a city is no longer safe, with neighborhoods on guard due to crime, windows with bars and homes prominently displaying their security systems, then people move out or avoid ever coming here in the first place" It is a great idea to prominently display your security system. I certainly do it in Ann Arbor with the high amount of home invasions here and will do it when I move to a different community as well. I am not sorry at all if my ADT sign deters anyone from moving into my neighborhood!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

and a monitored alarm system would drop your homeowners rate dramatically. (FYI)


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:01 p.m.

@akronymn, you can get an ADT system monitored for about $400/year. Thats likely less than the proposed increase in taxes you'd pay. And ADT is probably the most expensive monitoring service. There are VOIP monitoring services that are as little as $10/month. alternatively, you could purchase an ADT yard sign from EBAY for around $20 or so.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

That's besides the point. Sure it works fine for those who can afford it but if people who can't actually afford expensive home protection systems (much more expensive than a tax which would keep our community truly safe) starte relying on stickers it won't be long before those stickers are worthless as deterrents.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Donald Wilson's comment is not true. should delete it, because it is factually inaccurate and therefore misleading. If the proposed millage and income tax is approved, residents and workers will pay more.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Correct. While the state does allow a credit for paid city income tax, it is a tiny faction of what you pay the city. There is a calculator here on the State's website. If you pay $1000 in city income tax, you receive $68 credit. If you pay $500 in city income tax, you receive a $43 credit.,1607,7-238-43513-202458--,00.html Donald Wilson is completely wrong


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Erika, I can tell you first-hand that I chose to live outside of the city boundaries, specifically because of the tax rates in the city. Ypsi will continue to draw hipsters, but that's about it. And as posted previously, many many people would have already fled the city if they could unload their homes


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

And I am choosing to live in this city for the exact reason that the council (and hopefully now the citizens) are willing to make the tough decisions required to keep Ypsilanti the great place that it is. I knew this ballot was coming before I moved here. If you don't want to live here that's fine, but I love this city and am more than willing to do my part. (and I'm about as far from being a hipster as it's possible to be)


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

This exact same argument was made in 2007, when we were all told we needed this tax, or insurance rates would go up, we would lose police and fire, and in every other respect, the sky would fall. None of it happened. And I don't mean most or some of it didn't happen. NONE of it did. Flight? Really? Huge numbers of homeowners are upside down on their mortgage. Most home values on the open market are around half what they were just 5 years ago, many less than half. Nobody is leaving, because nobody can afford to leave. Arguing that the real estate market will magically improve by raising taxes to the very highest rate in the county is absurd.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Police and Fire have been reduced. City staff has been cut by a third. Parks maintenance is barely happening. Saying none of this happened is just plain untrue.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

If Ypsi taxes are raised, will the money go for police or for another Water Street Project debacle? If the money does go to police will they be allowed to do their job? Will the criminal justice system keep miscreants off the street? Is that even a realistic goal in this politically correct age? Trust in government is as big of an issue as crime. If I can't trust the government to be remotely competent I won't vote for higher taxes.

Ellis Sams

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Detroit implemented a city income tax and a utilities tax and then raised taxes time and again. How's that working out for them?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

Detroit also allowed unchecked rampant crime to take over the city. Of the three variables you listed, which one do you think was most responsible for the desertion of the tax base?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Ypsilanti are two very different cities in very different circumstances. Apples and Oranges.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

I agree. It's the perception, or rather the reality, or high crime that makes people leave and keeps people away. I lived there for several years and endured vandalism, theft, an attempted home invasion, and an attempted robbery; the latter two incidents I was forced to defend myself with a weapon. It was awful! An elderly lady was robbed in broad daylight across the street from my house - on the lawn of the police station. This was in the early 90's. I can only imagine that things have gotten worse. I also had a lot of great times. I met some wonderful people. I have fond memories of living there, even with the bad. Ypsi is a great city with a lot of great attractions: nice homes, nice people, the river, the campus, etc. I really hope that the city gets the services it needs because it is being held hostage by the criminal element.

Mark Hergott

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

The early 1990s were the height of crime for the entire United States. Ypsilanti is still above the national average as far as crime, but the city is much safer than the early 1990s. Will Detroit criminal migrate to Ypsilanti because of reduced road patrols? I think you give criminals far too much credit.

Mark Hergott

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. We were warned of dire consequences the last time the city income tax was proposed. We weathered the changes. We changed how we did things. We discovered ways to do more with less. Crime went down. Insurance rates remained the same. Will things turn out exactly the same if these measures are defeated? Of course not. However, things will not be as dire as predicted. I am going to vote for the Water Street millage because it is the right thing to do. I am going to vote no on the income tax proposal because I cannot punish people with no voice in the city for the mistakes of past city councils. I am confident that city council can figure out how to fix this without punishing people who had no input into the mistakes of the past. Vote no on the city income tax.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

thats nonsense truthiness. every other city in Washtenaw Co has seen similar drops in property tax revenue. Only Ypsi city has been mismanaged for so long that it has already hit the property tax rate ceiling allowed by the state, and must keep coming up with more ways to take more of your money.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

I don't feel that this crisis is due to past mistakes of city council. From today's Save Ypsi Yes email: "Water Street is NOT the biggest problem causing our economic crisis. The falling property taxes and Michigan state government removing much of our revenue sharing income is the real issue. Those two reductions in revenue mean over $4M less for us every year! People want to point to Water Street and say this is why we are in a crisis, but that is just not the case."