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Posted on Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Should Michigan cities and counties have the option of a local sales tax? Some think so

By Ryan J. Stanton


Mary Parker, an employee of the Dawn Treader Book Shop in Ann Arbor, rings up a customer's purchases. She used to live in New York, where the sales tax rate differed from county to county.

Ryan J. Stanton |

After years of making painful cuts, local governments across Michigan still are grappling with some of the most deep-rooted fiscal challenges they've seen in decades.

That leaves some wondering: Why aren't local sales taxes an option for cash-strapped cities and counties in Michigan? A majority of states allow them.

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and other local officials say they'll be actively lobbying Gov. Rick Snyder and the new Legislature to make some changes to state law soon.

That effort comes as the city of Ann Arbor faces a $2.4 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year, meaning another year of possible cuts to services like police and fire.

Thumbnail image for John_Hieftje_July_2010_debate_2.jpg

Mayor John Hieftje

Washtenaw County officials, meanwhile, are tasked with addressing a $20.9 million structural deficit over the next two years, and entire programs are on the chopping block.

If the state continues making cuts to revenue sharing, Hieftje said, it should at least allow municipalities to generate revenue in other ways — such as a local sales tax.

"Back when the state took over revenue sharing, they took away the ability of cities to have local sales taxes," Hieftje said. "And what cities are going to be saying here — since the governor wants to talk to us, he wants to hear from us — is maybe we should have a menu of options.

"If you're going to take away revenue sharing, which we all see happening, give us another option, because you just keep taking it away and taking it away."

As lawmakers in Lansing turn their attention to a deficit of at least $1.8 billion for the next fiscal year, further cuts to revenue sharing might be hard to avoid.

Ann Arbor already has watched its revenue sharing payments from the state fall from more than $14 million a decade ago to just above $9 million last year. That $5 million drop has led to city service reductions and dozens of job eliminations.

According to the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, unrestricted state revenue sharing has dropped 31 percent since 2000 — or by $4 billion. It's estimated those cuts have caused more than 2,400 police officers and 1,800 firefighters to lose their jobs.

"I don't think there's a local government left in the state that doesn't have fewer police officers and firefighters," Hieftje said.

Michigan in the minority

More than half the states in the country allow local sales taxes. But it would take a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution to give municipalities that option in Michigan.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, favors going to voters with the idea. So does the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, a countywide transportation planning agency.


Jeff Irwin

Irwin, a former Washtenaw County commissioner and member of Washtenaw Partners for Transit, said he'd be willing to sponsor legislation to make local sales taxes an option. He said he thinks sales taxes are the best way to fund regional services like transit.

"Could the Legislature just put it on the ballot? Yes, absolutely," Irwin said. "Do I think that's going to happen? I'm hopeful that it might given the situation we're facing in Lansing, but I think it's a long shot. It's going to be hard to get the votes for that in Lansing."

Terri Blackmore, WATS executive director, said her agency studied the issue in 2006 and found a 0.5-percent sales tax in Washtenaw County — added on top of the state's 6 percent — could raise $25.9 million a year. That study hasn't been updated, but Blackmore said it showed a local sales tax could be a reliable revenue source.

If Blackmore had her way, that money would go to fund countywide transportation improvements, including expansion of Ann Arbor Transportation Authority services and the Ann Arbor-to-Detroit commuter rail.

But past efforts to give locals that option have died the Legislature.

"It's been introduced probably the last four or five sessions," Blackmore said. "We're really hoping this time around it will go farther. It just makes sense that they would enable the citizens to tax themselves. It seems like a win-win. And the Republicans in the Legislature wouldn't have to raises taxes — they would just allow people to vote for it if they wanted to."

Blackmore noted other communities outside Michigan don't pay for transit improvements with property taxes, but rather have a host of options, including local sales taxes.

"It's just a shame that Michigan has not been investing in our infrastructure. It's a real economic issue," she said.

Hieftje thinks a local sales tax in Ann Arbor would make sense to voters — more so than other revenue options like a city income tax or a Headlee override.

"Ann Arbor, for instance, would finally have a way for city government to do well with a University of Michigan football game — you have seven football games a year, with all of these people coming to town," he said. "The art fair, we would begin to really see an appreciation from things like that. It would capture some of the dollars.

"It may be that a community like Ann Arbor would do well enough with a sales tax that then we could lower taxes in other areas," he added.

Hieftje said it wouldn't be a revenue grab, but would be a way to stave off cuts to basic city services. Theoretically, he said, it could be a 1 percent tax on sales in the city, and 1 percent throughout the rest of the county to fund services like public safety in the townships.

Keeping the rate even throughout the county would help keep consumers from driving to stores outside the city just to save a few dollars, he said.

'A one-size-fits all tax'

Not everyone is as gung-ho as Hieftje. Bill Gillmore, owner of the Dawn Treader Book Shop in downtown Ann Arbor, said he's not sold on the idea of increasing the sales tax.

"I know the city is struggling like crazy to have enough money to provide basic services," he said. "But I don't like sales taxes much, because they're predominantly a tax on poor people. I like to tax people according to their means. I think we have enough trouble with people trying to make ends meet without having a one-size-fits-all tax."


Bill Gillmore, owner of the Dawn Treader Book Shop in downtown Ann Arbor, said he's against the idea of levying a local sales tax.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Mary Parker, an employee at Gillmore's book shop, said she used to live in New York state where the sales tax rate differs by jurisdiction due to local sales taxes.

"The sales tax in the Buffalo area was 8.5 percent last I knew, and then people would go to Niagra County because it was 7 percent," she said. "My sister and I came here and we were like, 'What? Six percent? Wow, easy.'"

Parker said raising the sales tax can be a slippery slope.

"It depends on how much it's going to affect the people who already are kind of broke," she said. "How far is their dollar going to go for the same stuff they need?"

University of Michigan student Brian Kingsley said a local sales tax might sound like a good idea when considering Ann Arbor draws a lot of visitors. But an astute tourist might notice and leave frustrated, he said.

"Also, there's an underlying idea here that we should make money off the students, which frustrates me," he added.

County Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor, said local governments in Michigan have few options for raising new revenue. She noted the county is bringing in about $14 million less in property taxes than it otherwise might because of the Headlee Amendment to the state Constitution and Proposal A — both of which placed limits on property tax growth.

Gunn said it's her understanding the county could lose out on millions more if the Snyder administration is successful in its plans to restructure business taxes in Michigan. Even so, she's against using a local sales tax to replenish the county's coffers.

"A local sales tax would be regressive," she said. "Perhaps an entertainment tax on football tickets, restaurant meals above a certain amount, and possibly performances, might be more acceptable. Whatever is proposed, the voters would have to decide."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:29 a.m.

I love Mayor Hiefjie, everyone is talkin .05% and he comes up with a full 1%, what a guy! He doesn't want an income tax which is the most feasable, fair, and workable revenue producer because of the consistantcy of government employment in Ann Arbor. He'd rather put all "regressive" taxes on the board so he can remain in good favor with the unions and government employees. It turns out "for the public good" is for the public sector's benefit in Ann Arbor.

Otto Mobeal

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 2:12 a.m.

The city needs to stop with the taxes and get with correcting the problem. The city probably should file for bankruptcy. They have set up an impossible Ponzi system called the city pension. Like they have had to do in private industry: reduce pension payments, eliminate supplemental payments (bridge between early retirement and social security), eliminate retiree health insurance (already covered by medicare), freeze the current pensions, and move to defined contribution pensions.

Joel A. Levitt

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

A 1% sales tax increase would be hardly noticed by the wealthy, and it would be a real blow to the poor, hardly noticed by the well employed and a real blow to those working for minimum wages or already unemployed. Creating a graduated state income tax would be no more complicated than permitting local sales taxes, and it could provide all the revenue needed. Here is a sample of referendum language that would solve many of our problems. WHEREAS, excise taxes impose the greatest burden on those who can least afford to pay them, they being often those who have profited least from the advantages provided by our state, and sin taxes don't work. WHEREAS, property taxes are vestigial artifacts of former times when property was the best measure of wealth, and they are least effective at raising public funds during hard times when many become unemployed. WHEREAS, present taxes fail to recognize that certain individual expenses are required if the income earner is to be able to work. WHEREAS, present business taxes bear so heavily on new and struggling businesses that they cause them to discharge productive employees and even cause them to fail. Be it resolved that the Michigan Constitution will be amended to: 1. eliminate all current state and local taxes; 2. permit the imposition of a graduated income tax, and 3. establish a statewide graduated tax on the net income of all Michigan businesses and residents, net income being income in excess of those amounts needed to earn income, which in the case of income earning individuals includes reasonable amounts needed to provide adequate shelter, adequate food, adequate clothing, medical care and education for the income earner and the income earner's dependents.

rusty shackelford

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

I don't think a 0.5% county wide sales tax (the only specific proposal I could identify in the article) would be that big a deal. That is fifty cents on every hundred dollar purchase, or 1 cent on every two dollar purchase. Exempt groceries and clothing if there are concerns about the poor. The other option--an income tax--is much more regressive. If there's a choice, might as well go with taxing consumption rather than taxing work. I wouldn't support a tax higher than .5%, though.

Tex Treeder

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 1:53 a.m.

Mayor and council members: No local income tax, no local sales tax. Make do with less. We, the taxpayers, have to. Cities, counties, states and the country need to do the same. On the other hand, I will be one of thousands actively campaigning to end your political career should you pursue this idea. Sincerely, A voting citizen


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:20 a.m.

As someone who owns commercial property immediately outside the corporate boundaries of AA I wish Rep. Irwin and the pro-sales tax folks every success with their agenda. I can't win a fight with the tax & spend crowd AA's electorate sends to Lansing or city council but I can profit from its blunders.


Sat, Feb 19, 2011 : 3:28 a.m.

Let's see, outside the city limits - that probably means no sidewalks or bike lanes, few libraries (except recently by Oak Valley), no parks or nature areas, no skating rinks, no LED energy efficient lighting, poor environmental protections, low quality building standards, poorer quality schools, a cultural wasteland. That's why I live and shop in Ann Arbor.

Tony Livingston

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

For some reason, Hieftje will not support and income tax to charge the people that actually use the city and all of the benefits. He is also completely unwilling to address the early retirement provisions for city employees that are bankrupting the city. Until then, I would fight this all of the way.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

Lower city pay rates would allow more employees to be hired, improving service, and reducing unemployment Win-win. Now, that is value.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 7:04 p.m.

How about we cut YOUR pay in half, and we can hire a second employee at your job. Then we can turn the entire country into people making minimum wage and have full employment. If you pay people MORE, they buy more, which means other businesses hire more, which means those people buy more goods, which in turn means those businesses that they get those goods from hire more. I guess in your world you want the ownership class to have millions, while the working class should just be happy to get what they are given. I suppose it makes sense to have 1000's of firefighters working at minimum wage, because risking your life at work should be equal to somebody making burgers at Steak and Shake.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

I have no problem with this if it's a 1 or 2% increase. Many states allow counties and cities the ability to apply a local addition to sales taxes. I would like to see this on the ballot two times. Statewide and on a local ballot for any community that wanted to apply it. It will be fine with people living from about Dundee and south from there, who can take a quick trip to Toledo or Sylvania. But in reality travel to an area to save 1 or 2% may spend more just to get there, unless they are buying high ticket items. As the article notes, state revenue sharing is down and is property tax revenues. You can only cut so much while you still have to provide sufficient services. Some states have user fees that require you to pay the state the difference in sales tax if you purchase an item in a state with no or a lower sales tax and bring it back to your state to use. Yuck to that, but I could survive a small increase in the sales tax, as long as spending is sound. I think that is what most of us disagree on, what is proper spending by our state and local govts. A service consider essential to some of us may not be to others. I think we should be thinking more about "functional" instead of "aesthetic" in planning and tone down the glamor in order to just get the job done.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

"...The decision would be up to the voters, more cuts or pay more in taxes...." Good management would render such a referendum unneeded. Ann Arbor has let go of many good workers in order to retain fewer highler paid workers. Are the votors getting $107,000 of value from the average city worker? Or is it time to move city compensation to levels much closer to national averages? And much closer to the average of non-publicly employed city residents? Public compensation levels are approximately twice private levels. Reducing city wages to national levels would save ~$35 million per year. Many believe it's time to get more value from public employees.

John B.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

This year's (bogus, and untrue, as usual) Republikan talking point....


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

city or county sales tax? NO NO NO NO x infinety NO NEW taxes, NO INCREASED taxes perhaps the carbon monoxide fumes that have closed city hall on a numbr of occasions are causing oxygen deprivation to the mayor and city counsels brains. As a downtown shop owner everyone complains about parking, out of towners are shocked by the parking fees. charge them a sales tax on top of it and instead of shopping in ann arbor they will purchase everything just outside of city limits or county limits. I can't believe these people keep getting voted in again. imagine, 5% extra for a pair of socks, a two by four, a lawn mower and all you have to do to avoid it is drive 20mins out of your way to the next meijer or the next lowes, get all of your shopping done to avoid the republic of a2 tax.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Mr Dalton, Three times in this post you say A2 hasn't put a tax increase on the ballot or hasn't asked for a tax increase. I think most of us know why. Polls continue to say it would be soundly defeated. No entity puts a vote out when the polls tell you it is going down! Let's not turn this isn't the kind-hearted city government didn't put it on the ballot because they just don't want more revenue. That's a little over the edge.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

John B, I am totally chilled out. And I have never told another poster to not post. Good grief! Incredible.

John B.

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

Cash, I really like to read a majority of what you say on this forum, but I would like to respectfully submit that you need to chill out and let this one go.... Please?

Tim Darton

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

Cash: Unbelievable that you would say that! You and other posters here keep putting up the same myths about the PD & Courts building or public art, or the parking structure, the same wrong myths. So how about this one: In this unprecedented financial crisis cities all over the state have made much deeper cuts into basic services than A2 has and many have raised taxes. A2 has not even asked for a tax increase, still taking only 27% of the property tax stream, they still have a top bond rating and 40% of the land is non taxable. City govt. also has to support a huge park system the voters insist on. In this very story they highlight how the city is getting almost $5 million less than it used to in revenue sharing, they also lost 5% of revenue when the UM took over Pfizer, etc. But costs for employee's keep going up. (health care) I am not against that. People should be paid for their work but they still have to be paid. But the city still has not put a tax increase on the ballot. In the story the mayor, who is against an income tax, is simply saying IF the state keeps taking $$$ give the locals some options to ask the voters for more $$. The decision would be up to the voters, more cuts or pay more in taxes. Sounds like a fair thing to ask. I for one understand you can't get something for nothing and would vote for a tax increase. Bottom line A2 keeps doing better than other places and they haven't raised taxes.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

Mr Dalton, The city is doing a fabulous job and never spent a dime on anything frivolous, etc..... You post the same things over and over again the past two days. The same line that the city administration speaks....almost word for word. But sorry, it's not believable, no matter who writes the script.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 11:37 a.m.

No poster's business, but I do not live in Ypsilanti. Stalking posters is quite odd and trying to hush them even more so. Where i live and where I own property is my business and my subject of interest. I don't care where you own property or where you live. Why so interested in ME as a poster? Weird, really.

John B.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:01 a.m.

Sometimes the truth is difficult to hear....


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

If you are so unhappy with what city government has done on the building vote for new people. Of course as an Ypsi resident YOUR opinion does nto matter to those of us who live and work in Ann Arbor. I do not get involved in Ypsilanti's money matters because they do not mean anything to me. The actual VOTERS of Ann Arbor have CLEARLY stated on two separate occasions since the building was started that they want the current group in office. I know that whole democracy thing sucks, but its time to move on to something else. Whining about something already FINISHED is stupid. Would you suggest they tear it down? Let it sit empty? Tell us your solution or just be quiet.

Tim Darton

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

Cash: What I am saying is that very little general fund money was spent that was not being spent before. The city is saving $700,000-800,000 by not having to pay rent to the county and by being able to move other units into the old building when the police move out. Part of the project goes remove asbestos and make the lower level of city hall capable of holding whole departments so the city can stop renting across the street. By putting the police in with the courts on the same foundation (saved $ VS a separate PD station) they are able to provide the station the PD as needed for 30-40 years. The PD really needed a new building, anyone who toured the old one knows this. Add the money saved in rents to what the DDA is paying and you have almost all of the bond payment. ., Plus, the city had something like $12 million to put down, money that had been saved since the 1990's. The furnishings? If you caught the story the court ended up buying mostly used furniture. That is not a fancy building. All brick? That would have been expensive. And it is NOT A NEW CITY HALL. The administration, council, finance, water & sewer, etc. will all be in the old building. Bottom line, courts have specific security needs, under the building parking for the judges, separate elevators, etc and if possible the same for prisoner transport, separation of perpetrator and victims, etc. Those requirements all increased in the last 10 with crimes against judges in other places. The city had a task force that looked at 12 existing buildings and none would work.

G. Orwell

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

Our federal government should do the following and return the savings (our money) back to the states. For starters: 1. Stop the illegal wars and reduce the military bases around the world by 80-90%. 2. End the Federal Reserve that is financially enslaving us and default on the fraudulent debt created out of thin air. 3. Reduce the size of the federal government by 50% or more. Local and state governments are shrinking while the federal government grows and grows and grows. Definitely get rid of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA and the Department of Education that is dumbing down and indoctrinating our kids. Our educational system has gone down hill ever since the feds took over education. 4. Take back all the money given to the banks, including foreign banks, and demand that they pay 20-30% (not 0%) interest on the loans. Just as credit card companies charge it customers. 5. Stop corporate welfare.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

We pay to park, pay for signs, pay state sales tax, pay state income tax, pay federal income tax, pay social security tax, pay medicare tax, license plate fees, drivers licenses, professional licenses for everything imaginable, permits for everything under the sun, taxes on our cell phones, taxes on our landlines, taxes on our gasoline, etc..... I think you all get the picture. The problem we have and continue to have is mismanagement of all of the monies collected by politicians who don't have the business acumen to run a popcorn stand (which you would need a permit for). The answer is always more taxes, I wish I could go to my neighbors house and ask them to pay for some of my bills. In essence that is what politicians do. NO MORE TAXES!

John B.

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

I guess we shouldn't vote for those politicians to represent us, then?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:32 p.m.

alphaalpha wrote: "Nope. Not bogus; taken from articles, city budget documents, etc. Dialog? You could present numbers; instead, we get denigration? Is it easier to criticise others than to present numbers? Is it understandable you'd rather not discuss numbers by sharing numbers?" It is not denigration to call it what it is. To quote the ex-half-term governor of a national park, "You can't put lipstick on a pig." Other numbers? I don't have 'em. I reasonable discussion along these lines would undertake a job-to-job analysis. As Cash pointed out so succinctly in a post above: add 100 short order cooks + 2 retail clerks and divide by 102 = average salary add 50 firefighters+ 52 accountants and divide by 102 = average salary So, once again, there is a factual basis for your "average compensation" but it tells us absolutely nothing. It does not tell us if the garbage men are over- or under-compensated, nor the police, nor the secretaries, nor the department heads, nor the city manager, nor the part-time lifeguards at the pools. Think city employees are over compensated? Then make the case on job-by-job basis. Believe it or not, were you to do that, you might convince even me. Seriously! Otherwise, you're spewing meaningless numbers and employing faulty logic. And if that's all you have, one must conclude there is no case to be made. Oh, BTW, glad to uncover that you think people who have served our nation are "on the dole". As I've said before, tells us much about who you are. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Compensation in government is a mystery. Often government employees keep comparing themselves to othe government entities for pay and benefit raises through their collective bargaining units. It often has nothing to do with private sector wages and benefits. Should a counter person answering questions for the water department be making 45K a year? A receptionist? Does it, or should it matter whether the person has a degree that is not required for the job? There are many "jobs" in government that are compensated far better than similar jobs in private sector companies (excluding auto unions)


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

"Should Michigan cities and counties have the option of a local sales tax? Some think so" .....and some people thought Richrod deserved another year........I'm just sayin'.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

Again, I absolutely agree in principle. The problem is that through Prop A the state took away much of local gov't's ability to raise revenue with the promise that the state would come through. No the state is reneging on that promise, so I think localities ought have more flexibility in levying taxes. But, as you say, that will take a constitutional amendment so . . . Sigh. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Personally, I think it is a bad idea. It screws up the marketplace, especially for higher ticket items, like cars and such. Then, of course, the government responds with more laws, regulating where you need to buy cars and such ... a free market nightmare. On a practical basis, it isn't worth getting wound up over, since it would need to be an amendment to the state constitution and that isn't happening any time soon. Sometimes I think AA.commie puts these pieces in here to get everyone wound up and the post count up. I'm not losing any sleep over it.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:34 p.m.

Good one!! From one who thought whatshisname needed to go! Do I think A2 (or any other city) ought do this? I have my doubts. Do I think they ought to be able to do so? Absolutely. Whatever happened to the idea of local control? Good Night and Good Luck

Richard C

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

While I recognize having a uniform taxing structure across the state is a good thing - that also depends on having a responsible and prudent state government too, which we don't have (and it's only gotten worse now that we have a Single Party State, "Like in Communist Russia".) As long as the state retains control of tax revenues, and as long as the state remains irresponsible - locally controlled taxes remain what we need.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Some cook; some stir the pot.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

"My "dialogue" with alphaalpha is merely an effort to show open-minded readers that his numbers and logic are bogus and should be understood as such." Nope. Not bogus; taken from articles, city budget documents, etc. Dialog? You could present numbers; instead, we get denigration? Is it easier to criticise others than to present numbers? Is it understandable you'd rather not discuss numbers by sharing numbers? Is it understandable one on the public dole wishes to remain there?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

In my opinion, this is a bad idea. I try to shop locally as much as possible. This can be expensive enough. For items with free shipping it is usually cheaper to shop online. However, I do like to support local businesses. Add a sales tax to already expensive local shops, and people will go elsewhere or buy online.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Did you know you are supposed to pay state sales tax on anything you buy online? Even if you buy it from a retailer in another state. I hate that but it is the law now. Some online retailers automatically add it and a state can pass a law requiring it. Some states have user fees, meaning &quot;if you buy it in another state but use it here,&quot; you must pay tax on it. Sometimes it is just the difference, if there is one, in the sales tax of the state you bought the item. If that state's tax is lower than your state's you have to pay your state the difference. Here is a link from the state of Washington: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Washington has no state income tax, so they have to make that up in other fees and taxes. Washington's sales taxes are 7 to 10% because counties can add up to 2.5% I like free shipping by internet too. Shipping can be very expensive.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:51 p.m.

sbbuilder wrote: &quot;Sorry, dude. You're on the losing end of this argument. Those numbers are not 'bogus', as you are won't to school us. It's crystal clear that City employee compensation is way out of line. Perhaps you don't think they make enough? Is that it?&quot; Nowhere have I said that public employees make too little. Nice try at implication by exaggeration. Indeed, several weeks ago, you asked how I would solve (albeit at the state level) the problem of public employee compensation. I gave an extended response to which you did not reply. Can't help but wonder why. Perhaps its thoughtfulness and complexity did not fit into the simple box in which you have placed me? And, no, I didn't expect that I'd convince you of anything in this or in any other discussion. My &quot;dialogue&quot; with alphaalpha is merely an effort to show open-minded readers that his numbers and logic are bogus and should be understood as such. That you and other appear to think that bringing to light such illogic and misrepresentation of facts means that I support higher public speaks to your agenda, not mine. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 11:51 p.m.

Ghost I have no access to my account, hence cannot search my log. We were in Seoul in the mid-Seventies. At that time 8th army had a beautiful 18 hole course that we had to pass by on the way to school. It was immaculate. Since then, you may be aware, the base has lost a lot of territory. The golf course is now completely gone. Soon, it will be gone altogether.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:17 p.m.

Ed. They just do not understand your explanation.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:29 p.m.

Not certain what DoD schools have to do with this discussion. Yes, many were (and probably are) crap. As for money for golf courses--I was in Korea from June of '81 to June of '82. At the time there was a crappy 9-hole golf course in Yongsan (8th Army HQ). I was stationed with an artillery battalion in the 2nd Inf. Div and, in 12 months, made it to Seoul exactly twice--never played golf--and for the 15K soldiers in the 2nd D, that was pretty typical. Fort Hood, Fort Carson, and Fort Sill--all places I was also stationed--had equally crappy courses. When at Carson I was a frequent golfer at the three Air Force courses near Colorado Springs. One, the Blue Course at USAFA, is one of the premier courses in the country. The Air Force does do it differently. As for limitations, i got around them in my reply to you by making an original post and continuing it in two subsequent replies. Look in your log where you asked me what I would do and you will find, somewhere below your question, my reply. The question had to do with how to deal with the state's pension liability. I had averred that it was pensions, and not pay, that was the problem across the state--and it is in A2. When one looks act actual PAY (what shows up on the W2), it is hard to say that A2 city workers are overpaid. It is the health care and ESPECIALLY the pension costs that are prohibitive and need to be fixed. But this $107K average compensation tells us absolutely nothing. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

Ghost There was a period of time where I could not post anything at all. Then, for a time, I could only post extremely short comments. AA staff said this was true for a number of people. That's why. I could refer you to an editorial published today on AA.COM that addresses public vs private compensation. No numbers, as you are wont to point out, yet poignant none the less. On another note, you're being ex-mil, I've attended three different DoD schools, all overseas. Those were the lousiest schools ever. The military would rather lavish funds on their golf course (SAHS, Seoul), than spend a dime on the school. My dad would sneak home blocks of paper from the Embassy in his attache for us to give to the school. You'd think we just gave them bricks of gold by their reaction.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

Mr Darton, Are you really trying to say that it was NECESSARY to build the new City Hall as they did, instead of building a modest building? Again saying it is completely necessary to build a new building is one thing that many may argue with but ....sorry there's no way you can convince anyone that the building as designed and built was necessary. A modest building could have been chosen. However, other choices were made. That's the part you skip over. Are you really try to say that little taxpayer money was spent on the new building all of the furnishings etc? I don't think so.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Ghost Sorry, dude. You're on the losing end of this argument. Those numbers are not 'bogus', as you are won't to school us. It's crystal clear that City employee compensation is way out of line. Perhaps you don't think they make enough? Is that it? And, speaking of government largess, both my parents were career Foreign Service. I was the direct recipient of incredible benefits. My dad retired at age 50. And on and on. Pretty good, eh? But eminently, totally unsustainable. Very succinctly; public employees make too darn much. Period. And don't try to convince this person otherwise. Won't work. It's called personal experience.

Tim Darton

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

Mr. Granger: One more time: The county is moving their juvenile courts into their courthouse so the city courts had to leave. The city looked at existing buildings for two years before deciding none of them could meet the security requirements of a courthouse. But, because the city is saving $800,000 in rent and the DDA is spending $8 million that can only be spent downtown, the hit on the general fund, that could be used to pay for things like police and fire, is very small. Bottom line: The city tried but there was no way to avoid the new building and it has only a small effect on the general fund. As for voting them out of office, the voters have had two tries since the building decision was made but the council members who voted for it were all reelected with greater margins (overwhelming) than before. The DDA can and does contribute $2 million per year to the general fund but from parking $$$ that are not restricted to just downtown.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Alphaalpha appreciates snoopdog's comments. Of course, like alphaalpha, snoopdog is selective in his use of evidence. In this case, he removed my words from the context of what followed. Much like alphaalpha removes numbers from their proper context and simplifies complex issues to the point of distortion--or worse. Is $107K too much in total cost for someone who mows the parks? Yup. Is $107K too much in total cost for a city manager? Good Luck getting a qualified individual to take the job for that niggardly sum of money, much for less for total cost of employment. Is $107K what either of these people cost the city? Nope. Hence the number is absolutely meaningless except to simpletons or to those who have agendas. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

&quot;Can we do better? I think yes.&quot; Really? Based on what empirical data do you make this statement? Where can the cuts be made? Which services should be cut and/or eliminated. Which positions in the city government really are not necessary? And whatever answers you come up with, you must explain how those cuts are appropriate for a &quot;business&quot; that has an annual budget of roughly $90 million and hundreds of millions of dollars of buildings and capital equipment? For example, if you were to suggest deep cuts into or elimination altogether of the city's IT staff, would such a move be acceptable at a company with a a budget and with capital investments such as the city of A2? I expect that you won't be able to answer these questions, which will tell us the value of your opinion. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

I disagree. In private enterprise we consider our &quot;cost burden&quot; to &quot;revenue&quot;. no matter what catagory those &quot;costs&quot; fall in. GOO's arguement is typical of a bureacrat with no concept of &quot;cost containment strategies&quot;. A2 has one city employee per 154 residents (740 emp/114K residents) Can we do better? I think yes.

Tom Joad

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

We are not going to tax ourselves out of Michigan's economic debacle. Sales tax is highly regressive. If local government is overextended it needs to stop spending the money. Make the tough cuts, but don't place the burden on the consumer for buying essential products.

Ron Granger

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

Communities need to be very cautious about raising taxes. It will drive residents and businesses out. Of course, Amazon loves it when cities like Ann Arbor consider raising sales taxes. Those of us who work from home, or start new businesses, can work from anywhere. We will flee. Cities like Seattle are very appealing because there is no state or city income tax (in addition to all of the other pluses). Anyone remember the attempt by Granholm and the Michigan state government a few years ago to impose sales taxes on services? The deals were made in closed door meetings, in secret. Only connected lobbyists and corporations knew the details. Golf courses were excluded, bowling alleys were targeted. It was a classic case of the rick sticking it to the little people. There was no time to lobby your elected officials. They only backed off when the threat of being recalled from office became very real and very likely. We haven't forgotten you, Andy Dillon. Combined with income taxes, it would have immediately reduced my consulting income by over 10% compared to places like Seattle. Remind me again why anyone who could flee would stay? I fully expect bankrupt states like Michigan will increasingly attempt stick it to those who still have income. Fortunately, not all of us are stuck in underwater mortgages.

John B.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:17 a.m.

Thanks Mick. Folks, once again, as always, there is no such thing as a free lunch!


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Nope. You think that people will flee Michigan for a rise in sales tax of 1 or 2%? I looked up your beloved state of Washington. No income tax but the sales tax is alreay 7 to 10%. The state tax is 6.5% and counties can add up to 2.5% it appears. They have a use tax too. States with no income tax look good, but the make up that money in different ways, like other taxes and fees.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

Thank you Snoopdog. Your comment is much appreciated.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Mr Darton, Obviously, instead of spending more money the city could cut utility rates to relieve the burden to residents. The idea that governmental entities must SPEND every dime they get,or their budget will be reduced is the problem with NFP budgets. Even with zero base, the situation doesn't correct itself. Having an excess doesn't mean it must be spent. Over and over you say that the city could not avoid building the Rog Mahal aka City Hall. Could it have been modest instead of lavish? We've already seen the &quot;extras&quot; needed such as furniture. What's next? Simple decisions....if you NEED a house do you need a mansion, or a 3 bedroom ranch? People do not object to necessary spending. But you take a statement like ...the city had to build a new building....and ignore what they DID build.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

The state limits the cities' ability to collect/generate revenue through &quot;revenue sharing&quot;, then cuts revenue sharing to the municipalities to keep more for itself. Since I occupy both a municipality and the state, the shift is neither here nor there. The changes in the revenue-sharing arrangement preserve something for me at the state level, albeit at the cost of something for me at the municipal level. It does seem unfair to prohibit the collection of sales taxes in favor of revenue sharing, and then cut revenue sharing. The money has to come from somewhere. I don't understand all of this anti-UM spew, though. Voters in Ann Arbor clearly have no problem with the &quot;greenbelt,&quot; which is supposed to push their property values up by limiting development in the surrounding townships. To get into Ann Arbor, the newcomer must pay more for his/her property, which is in limited supply to begin with, and for which a suitable substitute can't be found in the surrounding townships (because the City is sitting on the development rights). That's all ok with Ann Arbor property owners because the value of their holdings in Ann Arbor will increase as more people want to come into Ann Arbor. Implicitly, property taxes rise with property values, but no one seems to get that. UM functions like a greenbelt within the city. When the University buys a private property in the City, it removes it from the tax rolls. By reducing the number of available private properties in the City, the value of the remaining private properties increases. Again, the taxes go up, but that's what happens when you generate scarcity. Ann Arbor residents (or at least those who own property in the City) should be rejoicing because they have not only a greenbelt outside the city acting to drive their property values up, but they also have a &quot;Bluebelt&quot; inside the city doing the same thing.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

Ypsi, but the voters didn't vote for it on that idea. They voted for it because they like the idea green space and park land, not the property value implications. Do you talk to people that vote? Has one of them said &quot;its going to increase my property value?&quot; NO. They think they are helping the environment, and keeping ann arbor as a nice place surrounding by green. You are saying people voted for the greenbelt to increase property values, but not one of your quotes directly correlates to that thesis.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

I don't think we agree at all: &quot;This provides benefit for Ann Arborites by limiting suburban sprawl...&quot; &quot;With growth focused inside the greenbelt, the argument goes, densities will rise to a level that can efficiently support mass transit, thereby reducing every ill from air pollution to road congestion.&quot; &quot;The biggest problem facing the City of Ann Arbor is sprawl - uncontrolled development outside the City.&quot; &quot;Sprawl threatens to undermine Ann Arbor's high quality of life...&quot; &quot;Sprawl costs Ann Arbor residents millions of dollars each year ...&quot; Ann Arbor wants to limit development in the surrounding townships - not ALL of the surrounding townships, just the ones that have the potential to be both less expensive AND nicer than Ann Arbor, where Ann Arbor's residents might otherwise be tempted to move. Without well-off citizens slotted into its expensive homes, paying its expensive property taxes, Emerald City is going to have a very hard time paying its bills and maintaining its standard of living. It's already happening. The green belt is about conservation only to the extent that it preserves Ann Arbor's in situ tax base.The greenbelt is about keeping taxpayers in Ann Arbor, rather than letting them move to less expensive suburbs. All I'm saying is that reducing the number of privately owned properties inside the city limits accomplishes the same thing, so if people support the greenbelt, they should also support any other mechanism that produces the same result: higher valued private properties that produce more tax revenues.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

I think we agree? All those quotes point toward the project being sold to the general public on conservation, not property values.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 10:48 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that's how the greenbelt was sold to voters. (Ann Arborites go for anything that looks like it has the potential to increase their property values.) From <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> &quot;This provides benefit for Ann Arborites by limiting suburban sprawl, maintaining habitat and working farms (and therefore the City's ability to host a Farmer's Market), and protecting the Huron River watershed from the increased runoff of contaminated stormwater that low-density development creates.&quot; From <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> &quot;With growth focused inside the greenbelt, the argument goes, densities will rise to a level that can efficiently support mass transit, thereby reducing every ill from air pollution to road congestion. Higher densities, too, claim supporters, also provide more opportunities to walk and bicycle.&quot; &quot;The biggest problem facing the City of Ann Arbor is sprawl - uncontrolled development outside the City. The Ann Arbor area is one of the fastest growing regions in the entire state of Michigan. Rapid uncoordinated development is converting hundreds of acres of open space around Ann Arbor into subdivisions each year. For example, the rural northern gateway to the City is now threatened by the largest single development proposal in state history, a 5,000-unit development just three miles away in Northfield Township. From <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Sprawl threatens to undermine Ann Arbor's high quality of life, by destroying water quality, open spaces, woodlands, and farms; by increasing traffic congestion, commuting times, school overcrowding, and air pollution. Sprawl costs Ann Arbor residents millions of dollars each year because it requires the construction of new schools, roads, and utility extensions.&quot; Now, why would Ann Arborites care about &quot;suburban sprawl&quot; unless it impacted their property values? For the Farmer


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

I don't think that is how voters were sold on the green belt. I think that would have to do more with conservationists, and the perceived threat of urban sprawl. This could very well be the reason why many large landowners backed the legislation. Additionally, I agree with your tax dollars assessment of the U, but I disagree with the thought that we like the U buying property. I think the last few articles on here have showed the population believes the U owns enough property.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

The point is that I don't understand why people voluntarily fork over tax dollars to buy property outside the city limit to inflate property values in the city when the city already has a mechanism (UM) that has inflated property values quite nicely since it arrived. Second, when a private property owner sells, s/he normally sells to another private interest and the property stays on the tax rolls. When UM buys private property, the property is virtually never returned to private ownership, and the amount of land that is potentially available for private ownership is PERMANENTLY decreased.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

The difference is their are buildings on the land that need the aafd. The green belt only could product wildfire, and are mostly outside the city lime, but within the township or county. And the u is no different then any buyer looking at your analysis, actually anytime land is bought by anyone, the amount of available property goes down. What is your point??

Ron Granger

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

Gosh, if only the Ann Arbor city council hadn't gone against the citizens' wishes (and common sense) and burned $40+ Million on that stupid momument to ego city hall. Each discussion of budget shortfalls is a painful reminder of that stupidity. Each one who voted for it should be run out of office.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

Mister Ed said: &quot;Yup. These are valid numbers. Now, how much of this is pay? How much is medical? How much is pension? How much is payroll tax required by the federal government and which the employee never sees?&quot; Finally, Mr Ed admits that AlphaAlpha is correct about the 107 grand compensation package. I don't give a rats behind what the breakdown is. A 107,000 dollar average compensation package is ridiculous overspending of the taxpayers money. We are all going to need &quot;Good Luck&quot; if this overspending continues. We gonna all need to win the lotto to spend our way out of this mess !


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

Bad news for you guys who think its too expensive. It is going to get more expensive. The health care law alone is going to drive up HC costs and we all (should) know that costs rise every year anyway from inflation and salary raises. You can't expect people to work year in and year out for the same salary when all costs increase. I think there is some room to save money like ending the ability of an employee to increase pension payouts by working their behind off with OT the last few years and adding in unused vacation and sick time. That should end, it's overly generous but to say the total compensation is too high makes no sense.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Simple math: add 100 short order cooks + 2 retail clerks divide by 102 - get average salary add 50 firefighters+ 52 accountants = divide by 102 - get average salary See the problem?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Been there and done that, if the counties are in dire straights now what makes them think they can control spending by opting a resolution to control sales taxes. I had the unfortunate reality living in an area where the county had control and eventually increased sales tax by .25%-.75% yearly, within 10 years it has doubled the sales tax and they still are overspent. Initially they'll claim that they will increase for a year or so and bring it back down, no county has every brought back sales taxes down, once they increase they'll continue. Don't let this happen, this just another way of getting more money for less services.

Tim Darton

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini: Of course the city's assets are up and of course they have $100 Million put away. They are building a new sewage treatment plant to replace one built in the 1930's. Its the largest public works project the city has ever had. The city is spending $165 million so overall spending is up. By the way it is paid for through water and sewer bills and before you say it, let me note that if you saw it on this site last you know they are doing it without big hikes in the rates. A DNR study showed ann arbor had some of the lowest rates in the state for H20 and sewers. People continue to act as if the city can transfer $$ between restricted funds, they cannot. The state attorney general would clamp down immediately if they used utility dollars in the general fund or parks millage $$, or solid waste $$, etc. Its the general fund that is hurting. Did anyone read this article, every city is hurting, BTW many have raised taxes but not A2. Just as the new parking structure is payed for using DDA $$ collected for the sole purpose of spurring econ. development downtown, it would be against the law to spend those dollars in the general fund. You also have your numbers wrong on parking structure, a good portion of the $$ are going to other infrastructure improvements, its not all parking. Over and over again posters here complain about the courts building but the city had no way to avoid it! Besides, the police were stuck in the basement for 30+ years, time they came above ground. And the big deal is that not much of the funding is coming from the general fund.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

Divert and confuse? Easier to attack the messenger than the argument: public employees are over compensated.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

$107,000 per year total average compensation for A2 city employees. Brings new meaning to &quot;Cool 107&quot;.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

&quot;These are valid numbers. Now, how much of this is pay? How much is medical? How much is pension? How much is payroll tax required by the federal government and which the employee never sees?&quot; As you know, total compensation is the key metric. Many believe total compensation is too high.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

alphaalpha wrote: &quot;It's worth noting, and relevant, that commenter &quot;Colonel&quot; Ed is an admitted ongoing recipient of substantial public tax dollars.&quot; Indeed I am--retired lieutenant colonel from the United States Army after 25 years service. And that alphaalpha apparently thinks that this is the equivalent of being on the dole tells us all we need to know about his ideological biases. alphaalpha wrote that an article in &quot;which provides excellent background, and verification of numbers such as the $104,000 (ex-overtime) 2011 A2 employee compensation cost), is the inclusion of the cherished overtime pay into average compensation values; while the average 2011 city employee compensation cost is approximately $104,000, the additional $2.7 million spent for 'overtime' comes to about $3K per year per employee, bringing the true average compensation cost to an amazing $107,000 per year.&quot; The bear is now 25% out of the cave. Yup. These are valid numbers. Now, how much of this is pay? How much is medical? How much is pension? How much is payroll tax required by the federal government and which the employee never sees? And yet, even if these questions were answered, they'b be meaningless. They would tell us nothing about the pay of individual job categories. They would leave us with the impression that the garbage man is compensated the same as a police officer who is compensated the same as the city manager. But it is only with such obfuscations that alphaalpha can make his &quot;point&quot;. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

&quot;I do know that government is not as efficient as private enterprise because there is no profit motivation, far less accountability, and a collective bargaining program that is unbalanced, unecessary, and uncompromising.&quot; You &quot;know&quot; that, do you? Any real honest-to-God FACTS to support that statement? Didn't think so. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

I'm a vet too. I'm not sure what that has to do with budget and compensation issues. I do know that government is not as efficient as private enterprise because there is no profit motivation, far less accountability, and a collective bargaining program that is unbalanced, unecessary, and uncompromising.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Thanks, Cash. Much appreciated.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

Well, unless we are all required to list our biographies to post here, there's much that we don't know about anyone's background here. Our opinions aren't always formed by our occupations or our current financial situation. Often they are formed by our own principles; our own moral compass. By the way, thank you for your service to all of us.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

Stop spending money on Fuller Station. Stop spending money on Fuller Station. STOP SPENDING MONEY ON FULLER STATION. There is no demand for it. Even if there were half the demand for it that they claim, it's over 10 years aways in culminating. It's an enormous expenditure based on the possibility of maybe perhaps at some point in time we might consider actually wanting to need it. Also, there's an existing train station with what looks to be an enormous abandoned property that's actually butting up against the &quot;too small&quot; parking lot that exists. If Amtrak has demand, they can use that lot. Is there anyone who actually thinks we need to spend millions on that parking structure/maybe possibly train stop in 10 years? Do we all know how much money they've ALREADY put into it? Do we all know that they didn't get any funding for it because it was not a feasible project and didn't have a provable necessity or benefit, and they're doing it anyway as a &quot;proof&quot; project? Isn't the city's projected expenditure on that ONE thing more than the deficit that's this big emergency?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

74% for no local sales tax! I guess you Democrats elected to office will have to try another way to raise our taxes and be anti-businees!


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:18 p.m.

This is a SUPER plan! Tax me when I earn money, Tax me when I spend money, Tax me when I try to save money, Tax my property, tax my clothing, tax my education ( books, living expenses, etc), Taxes, Taxes, Taxes! Enough already! No more taxes! I already take home less than half of what i actually earn due to TAXES!


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:52 p.m.

You mean you don't have one of those tax excluded public pensions you can collect at age 50?

John B.

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

Then you are rich.... Tax the rich (more)!


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Another fact-free attack on public workers: <a href=""></a> The forces behind this &quot;Blame Government Workers&quot; farce are certainly MUCH better funded than the workers themselves. That's for sure. Jane Mayer wrote a nice exposé of the Koch Brothers who are the billionaires behind the tea party: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

One data reporting refinement which hopefully will be incorporated into the presentation of A2 city employee compensation costs in future articles regarding public employee compensation levels (such as <a href=",">,</a> which provides excellent background, and verification of numbers such as the $104,000 (ex-overtime) 2011 A2 employee compensation cost), is the inclusion of the cherished overtime pay into average compensation values; while the average 2011 city employee compensation cost is approximately $104,000, the additional $2.7 million spent for 'overtime' comes to about $3K per year per employee, bringing the true average compensation cost to an amazing $107,000 per year. Are the citizens getting $107,000 of value from each city employee? Many believe not.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Many public employees would not have to work overtime if they were held to the same productivity requirements as private employees. It's a game public employees play to get a bigger piece of the taxpayer pie.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

That is one long sentence Alpha. Ever heard of a period? Not sure what you mean here but I do know that paying employees overtime is less expensive than adding more employees. Overtime often is a result of low staffing. So paying OT may save money if cutting it means more staffing is required.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

Gorc wrote: &quot;These are tough choices [raising taxes v. cutting spending] and politicians are unwilling to make them because of the backlash from many.&quot; Truer words were never written in a discussion on People accustomed to a certain level of governmental service now expect to pay less for it. It is the WalMart-ification of America. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

Sales taxes are regressive: they hit the poor much harder than the rich, because rich people don't spend most of their income and poor people have to spend all of it just to survive. I don't know how any liberal can support that.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

@John B.: I don't know that &quot;easily&quot; is a descriptor I would apply to that.

John B.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

I agree, but that issue can easily be solved by revising the State Income Tax regulations....


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

Federal, State, and Local governments do not have a revenue problem....they have a spending issue. Whether a politician has a -R or -D at the end of their name, they have the fiscal intellect of a third grader and they spend irresponsibly. They are unwilling to make the difficult cuts because they are afraid that they will lose the support of their constituents; either politcal party could lose there power base. We can not tax ourselves into prosperity. One major spending issue that is contributing our deficits are the legacy cost of pensions and social security. They should slowly phase them out over the next decade or two by continuing to fulfill our obligations with making monthly payments to those currently being paid. When those recipients pass away, then we will no longer have that legacy cost weighing us down. Today, eliminate contributions for both the employer (governments) and employee. They can start contributing to a defined contribution plan for their retirement instead. And for those who are currently working, not at retirement age, and have paid into a pension or social security; prorate their benefits at retirement based on the amounts they contributed. This is a long term solution, but will financial benefit our society in due time. We must get rid of these legacy cost they are bankrupting governments and corporations. The State of Illinois just raised personal income tax 67% (from 3% to 5%)...they are broke. The main reason they are in dire straits...obligations to pay pensions. These are tough choices and politicians are unwilling to make them because of the backlash from many.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 12:15 a.m.

Social Security isnt in the budget. It has its own payment. It is solvent for the next 27 years. After that it can pay out 70%. It would be forever solvent if they changed it from being a tax on those making $1 to $106,000 and zero tax on anything above that, to simply every income level paying for it. Social security hasn't added to our budget crisis. We have a fiscal problem because when you have all of sudden have such a high unemployment rate and with it the lack of tax revenue, you no longer have the funds. Its a economic issue. Not a frivolous spending issue.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

You post a commonly promoted solution to the retirement funding burden but it not as easy to do it as say it. Defined contribution plans are great, if your salary is generous. If your salary is low, after 30 or 35 years of working you may be looking at a fund that is not sufficient to live on. Also there are things that impact it. For example suppose you are a 28 year employee, 50 years old and you are figuring your investments are looking good for retirement in 10 years. Then your spouse who does not have a job divorces you and gets one half of your retirement savings. Now its not looking so good. When I was going through divorce, that was the law. Market fluctuations can make values plummet too. And people in jobs that require harder labor than sitting at a desk may develop physical problems related to working 25 years may not be able to keep working until their plans look rich enough. There are adds on to pensions like rolling in unused vacation and sick time and working lots of OT in the last few years to run up your income. That stuff should end but its not going to be easy to pry pensions away from employees unless they look safe.

zip the cat

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

There wouldn't be any shortages or reductions in services if they the citys and counties would live within there means and cut to the bone like everyone else has had to do. Last I heard most if not all big shooters in the county/city said they would not even think of cutting there wages and benefits,so do with out. This is only the tip of the iceberg as to whats comming down the road when the university of michigan OWNS 75% plus of the property in this city/county and still pays ZERO property taxes. If they paid there fair share there would not be any need for all of this. Good luck,I won't see it but its comming


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

If the UM owns 75% of the city, shouldn't it be a lot easier to run a city that is so small? As the U buys up property, the city gets smaller and should be easier to run. I guess the UM should buy up the remaining 25% and then the city govt can dissolve and the UM will run Ann Arbor. Just think you can rent your home from UM and not have to pay any more property taxes. If they don't tear your home down for a new building.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

I quit shopping in A2 almost a year ago when the city council stuck their nose or was it their middle finger into the illegal immigrant issue in AZ. Well, I did have my birthday dinner at Weber's with my wife because you get it for free. I don't miss Ann Arbor at all, plenty of fine restaraunts elsewhere and you don't have to pay for parking. As others have said, put in a tax and it is all too easy to drive 3 or 4 miles outside city limits and avoid the tax.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

alphaalpha wrote: &quot;the numbers have been posted many times on; Indeed they have. You compare public sector compensation (wages+benefits+employer costs such as payroll tax) to private sector wages. And, even were to you to compare apples to apples, your little averaging exercise is meaningless And you have been called on those bogus numbers numerous times, hence your unwillingness to post them again. But just so readers understand, my standard reply: First, readers should understand the numbers alphaalpha won't publish. He likes to &quot;report&quot; that the average A2 city employee &quot;earns&quot; $104K while the average private sector employee &quot;earns&quot; $58K. Note the para above for the problem with these numbers--they are a bogus comparison. And alphaalpha knows this--we've been down this road before--hence is unwillingness to share those numbers in this discussion. Moreover, as alphaalpha KNOWS, the BLS website from which he draws this data says that the data cannot be used in this manner. At <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>: &quot;Compensation cost levels in state and local government should not be directly compared with levels in private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of private industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Management, professional, and administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the state and local government workforce, compared with two-fifths of private industry.&quot; So the pay of a hamburger flipper at McDonalds has nothing whatsoever to do with the pay of a police officer, and vice versa, which is what your simplistic little averaging exercise insists ought be the case. Just so everyone understands the bogus numbers behind alphaalpha's statement and his unwillingness to share them. Goo

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

&quot;That you would argue that public employees do not enjoy a far higher standard of living than the private sector, accompanyed by greater job security, less accountability, better working conditions, better health plans, and pensions, with reduced retirement ages, buyouts, tax exclusions, strategic promotion opportunities, and monopolistic collective bargaining legislation and law, reflects badly on your handle of a person that fought McCarthy with the truth rather than fiction.&quot; Really? Where did I say any of that? Tell me exactly, please. Answer? Nowhere. I simply challenged the validity of alphaalpha's numbers. They are bogus. He compares numbers that are not the same thing and, even if they were, the agency that created those numbers says they cannot be used as he uses them. Nowhere have I made anything close to the statements you attribute to me. Nowhere. Are you certain you're not the Ghost of Joe McCarthy, just makin' it up as you go along, tryin' to see if some of the mud sticks? Sure looks like it. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

GOO, that you would argue that public employees do not enjoy a far higher standard of living than the private sector, accompanyed by greater job security, less accountability, better working conditions, better health plans, and pensions, with reduced retirement ages, buyouts, tax exclusions, strategic promotion opportunities, and monopolistic collective bargaining legislation and law, reflects badly on your handle of a person that fought McCarthy with the truth rather than fiction.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

You raise good points Goo. I will add there is some activity matching what alphaalpha is saying but not at the hamburger chef and police officer levels. Its at the upper management level. We covered this in a graduate level compensation class. People up top of public agencies look at their old college classmates who were in business school and demand similar wages. The excuse to overpay them, is &quot;well, they would leave for the private sector.&quot; Who cares? Someone will take the job at the appropriate level and do just as well, thank you. I have yet to see any significant talent from these administrators that justifies the excessive pay. Then you have the need to perform a &quot;nationwide search&quot; for candidates for which you pay some head hunter company tens of thousands of public funds to find &quot;the best and the brightest.&quot; Have not seen much success with those geniuses either. They seem to come and go often too.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:22 p.m.

Damn!! My signature got cut off!! Good Night and Good Luck

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Let me get this straight, despite spending $59 million on the unneeded BIG DIG for 677 spots, or roughly $90,000 per parking spot and spending $43 million on the unneeded TAJ MAHAL, and despite having a $29.56 million increase in net assets during the 2010 fiscal year (what the private sector calls a profit) according to the city's 2010 audit report (see CAFR page 14), and despite having $103.73 million in unrestricted funds (what is called the rainy day fund - see CAFR page 10) we need to impose a sales tax because city government needs more revenue? Priceless. (The CAFR is the city's audit annual report. Go to <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and click on the link to the &quot;FY2010 Comprehesive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)&quot;.)


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:12 p.m.

I'm with Ghost on this one. I would add the the DDA funding for the lot and whatever sprouts up above it is development and that is what Downtown Development Authorities are supposed to do, thus the name. The city's ability to appoint DDA members adds a strong arm ability and it seems the city raids DDA funds for their bad budgeting too often. I think DDA members should be elected so they can say No when they need to. Steve, you can't rail about projects unless they are being built by general fund money. You might want to look at how much they will cost the general fund in the future after they are built. Operating, maintenance and infrastructure needs are going to up the bills. In fact, wasn't there a story a little while back about the big cost of new furniture and such for the expanded space? AAPD needed a new facility, but it appears that reason was used to create this glorious building.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

Mr. Ingersoll wrote: &quot;Ghost is also unaware or ignoring the history of the way that the city ran the parking decks prior to the existence of the DDA. That was why the DDA was created - the city was managing budgets so poorly that the parking decks had holes in them and were being closed off.&quot; Neither unaware nor ignoring. Not the subject. But since you raise it: The DDA expects to pull in $15.99 million in 2010-11 through parking but to spend barely $7 million on parking operation and maintenance. Where is the other $9 million of this public money going? Looks to me like proof positive that parking rates could be cut in half in A2 and the DDA would still be operating the parking decks with a healthy &quot;profit&quot;. Of course, by law, public authorities are not supposed to operate at a profit. Moreover, the DDA siphons off tax revenue from the public schools, from WCC, and from other public entities--in 2011 it expects to pull in nearly $4 million from such sources. Where is that money going? Doubt these numbers? See: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Public monies being spent by a bunch of businessmen on their pet projects. Who says business and conservatives don't like welfare? The just don't like it when the POOR receive it. Good Night and Good Luck

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

Stephen: Thanks for using your real name. The purpose for allowing anonymous posters is not so that biases can be hidden, but rather to offer legitimate whistleblowers who would be under threat of losing their job, the ability to participate. I think Ghost is an example of someone who abuses this principal. Ghost is also unaware or ignoring the history of the way that the city ran the parking decks prior to the existence of the DDA. That was why the DDA was created - the city was managing budgets so poorly that the parking decks had holes in them and were being closed off.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:58 p.m.

Cash--you are correct--my &quot;stomping your feet and putting your fingers in your ears&quot; was needlessly gratuitous. My bad, and my apologies to both of you. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Stephen, Thanks for stating the facts. Much appreciated. The DDA is a good example of the shifting of public funds. It's good to see you posting here...citing references and making statements without taking any potshots at other posters. I really respect that maturity.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

The DDA was under no obligation to do either. But, you are correct, it could give more money to the city. It has decided not to. And this raises the question of the efficacy of having the DDA in the first place. I have long been troubled by the fact that most of its membership consists of people who are not elected by the people whose money they are spending. It is time to reconsider whether or not the DDA should continue to exist. Nevertheless, the point remains. The city council has NO control and LITTLE influence over the DDA, its budget, or how it spends its money. And stomping your feet and putting your fingers in your ears won't change that fact. Good Night and Good Luck

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4 p.m.

Dear Ghost, The DDA for example has given $12 million in surplus money to the city general fund for firefighters and police over the past five years. See <a href=""></a> If the DDA hadn't spent $59 million on the BIG DIG, it could have given more. Stomping your feet and putting your fingers in your ears won't change that fact!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

You call the buckets &quot;fiction&quot;. Informed people call them &quot;the law&quot;. Again, you don't like those projects? Fine. But, as I said above, let's not pretend their monies can be spend on the fire department. They can't. And stomping your feet and putting your fingers in your ears won't change that fact. Good Night and Good Luck

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Dear Ghost, The new city hall was NOT needed and the county was willing to extend the lease on the court rooms for another year or two. Dennis Dahlmann was willing to sell his City Center building across the street to the City for a very low price. The City is very talented at charging various fees to funds such as the DDA to extract money out of them for the general fund. Persisting with the fiction of the various &quot;buckets&quot; enables claims of poverty which are easily seen through by those with financial budgeting experience. But you ignore the many leaks in the buckets!!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

OK--it's simple. Like the underground parking garage or not, its construction is being paid for by DDA funds that cannot be used in the city's operating budget. Like the new city hall or not, it is being funded by capital bonds (and an accompanying tax) whose revenues cannot be used in the city's operating budget. And, though you do not raise it (others have and will): Like it or not, the green space initiative is being paid for by bonds (and an accompanying tax) whose revenues cannot be used in the city's operating budget. It really isn't that complicated. Don't like the parking garage (I don't either), or the new city hall (it was needed), or the green space initiative (too small to make much of a difference)? Fine. Those are legitimate positions to take. But let's not display our ignorance and pretend that the moneys for these three could have been spent on fire or police protection. They couldn't. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

@Arieswomen &quot;Just when are they going to live within a budget like the rest of us do?&quot; A couple problems: A part of the reason the economy is where it is is because so many of &quot;us&quot; did not or do not live withing a budget. And the other problem is &quot;they&quot; (government) are not living on their money, but ours. Regarding the downtown: I enjoy driving through and seeing all the activity in the warmer months. I am glad it is full of life. But I do not spend my money on parking and atmosphere.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:02 p.m.

Statewide gas tax and means-tested tax cut repeal. If you lived it up during the boom, time to pay the piper. Otherwise only poor children and elderly will pay. If your livelihood depends on driving a gas guzzler, there are ways to subsidize. But everyone should be looking to use less fuel. These attacks on public employees have got to stop. Just because Rush Limbaugh says something, does not mean it's true. The majority of public employees make less than their counterparts in private sector at the white collar level and a little more at the blue collar level. But the white collar workers traditionally use public sector work as a pipeline to the big bucks in the private sector. This is not possible for the blue collar public sector worker. Their only other path is into poverty competing with illegal immigrants for cleaning and construction/maintenance jobs. The privatizers are planting these stories in their lapdog media in order to fully destroy public control of anything they believe can be profited from. This privatization will not lead to any greater public benefit. Quite the opposite. This whole crisis was cooked up on Wall Street and the squeeze now being put on is also their doing. Meanwhile, you can watch the stock market continue to climb. States are getting crushed while Wall Street celebrates banner profits. That should tell you something but few here seem to understand the connection. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;emc=rss</a>


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:53 p.m.

Once again: How come we do not pressure U of M to pay for its fair share of fire production? As far as I can tell the university owns about 40% of the land in the city. The mayor says that the legislature passed a law that forces local municiplities to provide fire coverage to state owned entities (i.e. U of M) There is supposed to be a subsidy from the state to help the community provide the U fire service. This subsidy appears to have been underpaid or not paid at all in recent years. I spoke to a well respected constitutional scholar about this exact issue. The first thing is the state law violates the U.S. Constitution. His take was that the citizens of Ann Arbor could/should not be taxed in order to provide a service to a state entity; that is that the funding must come from the citizens of the entire state, not just a local population. He then said the city would have a couple options; Ask the U to pay their share, and if they do not, then the city could stop providing fire service to them. This is a very tough option, but I think the city may have to take this action. The U would then have a couple options; move as much of their operations as possible out of town and to a place that would subsidize their fire protection needs, pay and be covered, or not pay, keep operations in the city and hope no fires start, they could also invest in their own fire department (if this option were to happen, I would believe a U fd could work with the aafd, and in effect provide the same coverage we have now with the U finally subsidizing their share of costs) I am a law student, I live in the city, own my own home, and I believe I know the facts. If the city were to play hard ball with the U, we may be able to extract enough money form the aafd coverage alone to balance the budget deficit. Why the mayor and council dosent take a close look at this . . . . . .


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

Mick its not a war. Its a political process and we can win the PR battle. The city is on hard times (because of what I believe some bad decisions) We argue we are a little city trying to make it and can't be so genorus any longer to a place sitting on a pile of cash, and they argue &quot;how could we be so cruel as to let us be without fire protection. You also argue that the U has limited the amount of trips the fire department makes. That is a worthless argument. Myself and a large majority have never called the fire department, yet we still pay for it. I am glad they try to limit the trips that they make to the U of M, but everyone time they go on one thier, that is one more time then I have ever needed them.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Yes Mick, I think the city should explore their options. Which are ask the U for money, and carefully lay out the consequences of the cities options if they do not receive monies. We can impose more costs on our residents, or we can LEGALLY try and collect money from an entity that has been free riding/underpaying the system. The city CAN go directly to the university. Additionally, the constitution of the U.S. (which the states are bound by)(no I am not doing a research project on this, my con law professor that was author of the yale law journal, and actually argued constitutional issues is more then enough of an authority for me at present time)) A geographic population cannot be taxed by the state for a service that benefits all citizens of that state. It would be akin to making Oregon pay for salting the entire countries road system because we thought them in the best position to do so. Thats right Mick I did exaggerate the price and the date for the building of the fire station. I could not find the data quickly enough, so I made up facts that would be (ridiculously) in the U of M's favor. You actually pointed this out by saying &quot;if it were it would be a lot nicer then it is.&quot; You do give information that is was there in 1979, thats 32 years ago. I am still going to way overestimate the price of the the station at $32 million. So thats now a million a year. I dont know what your point is. I only suggest that we bypass the legislature, because we can and they cant pass a law that says you subsidize this state entity, and ask the u of m to make a budget decision to include money for the aafd. I believe this shouldn't hurt someone who has $7 billion in their coffers. Mick the reason comment is here is because this article is only a sub topic; the topic is what to do about the budget shortfall. So the fact that if the city were to get the same % of fire service funding (from the state or U) equal to the % U owned property there would be no def


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

The issue is state funding. If the STATE mandates a city do something, then shouldn't the STATE pay for it? The U is a PUBLIC STATE University. The city should take its complaint to the republican controlled legislature who refuse to allow a sales tax on services or any other way to increase revenue. Explain to me how it is fair that Borders is required to collect and pay sales taxes on what they sell, but a car wash, barber, tax preparer, dog groomer, or lawyer is not?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:55 p.m.

Deb, when I came to UM in 1979 fire station five was there and occupied by AAFD. It was not built in 2000 and if it was built for the $40 million as per your post it would be a lot nicer than it is. So your solution is that the city should tell the UM the FD will not respond to campus unless they pay millions? Sounds like extortion. You want to start a war? Maybe UM will start buying up more property


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

In the link Seldon provided, the Daily article notes that the state pays the city for fire protection to the UM. It also states the payments are less and late, but that is a city/state issue. Why the city is not all over the state for this is of interest. As pointed out the UM provided the building for station 5 and bought a truck. The UMPD has also cut down requests for FD responses over the years because so many fire alarms were set off for minor reasons or a pull station was pulled as a prank. Dont know why the FD issue is in this discussion of sales taxes.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Lets put it this way. The U owns about 40% of the land in the city, the cities fire dept budget is about 14 million. Their fair share of the costs would be about $5.6 million/ year. So even if the U built fire station 5 for $40,000,000 in 2000, that would work out to about 4 million a year contribution. Still not enough, and by my calculations would have saved themselves $16 million over ten years less then their fair cost, or 15.6 if you want to throw in the purchased fire engine. Once again, the U free rides. Additionally, what do you think the U means by maintains? I am guessing mowing the grass


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

seldon this is from your article: According to Brown, the University created and maintains Ann Arbor Fire Station 5, located on North Campus, to better serve the area. In 2004, the University also purchased a $300,000 fire truck for Local 693, according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald. So they bought a truck 7 yrs ago, and say they created and maintained fire station 5. I know they bought the truck, but I dont know anything about their financial contributions from this story. The more telling line from the article is this: Fitzgerald said he is aware of staffing concerns but did not know of any monetary requests. He said that a request for funds must come from the city, not the union, in order for it to be considered. This is what I am asking for, the city to request money from the U. to pay for its fair share of costs. Once again, although state law says that local municipalities must provide their locally state owned entities with fire service, I believe that state law is unconstitutional, and therefore the city should stop providing service unless proper payment is received. And the idea of adequate support is not a separate discussion, it is this discussion.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4 p.m.

UM does in fact support the AA Fire Department to some extent. They built a fire station and donated a truck. Whether that support is adequate is a separate discussion, of course. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

Its curious that the University, indeed many University's, finds the need to have their own police force but not their own fire department.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

&quot;Colonel&quot; Ed - You can repeat the same innacuracies; the numbers have been posted many times on Please read them.

Rose Garden

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

The states that I frequently visit have a higher sales tax than 6%. Still, I eat at the restaurants and purchase merchandise. I doubt that a .5% sales tax will cause people to shop elsewhere.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

hiefjie bumped it to 1%, he wants a profit margin for wiggle room.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

alphaalpha wrote: &quot;We have public employees being compensated at nearly twice the average wage- our middle class workers are being paid upper class wages.&quot; Please present evidence and the source of that evidence to support this statement. Otherwise, we'll just assume there are no facts whatsoever to support and that you are, AS ALWAYS, simply making it up. Good Night and Good Luck

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 2:45 a.m.

Snyder's study SPECIFICALLY says that its numbers do not take into account job differences, education levels, etc.... Governor Snyder's study, then, ADMITS that the numbers it presents are all but worthless. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

Governor Snyder's study.

Tim Darton

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

Actually A2 Government has been handling the funding crisis better than any other city. Or look at the county, massive deficits to deal with, or Grand Rapids where they had to raise their income tax last year and still laid off and closed pools. The same straw men keep getting put up here. The police and courts building? The city did everything it could to avoid building it. The county will save money by moving their juvenile courts in the Cty. courthouse but that meant the city courts had to move. The couldn't find anther building that would meet security so they had to build and the police have needed a new headquarters for 30 years. But guess what, they are saving $700,000 in rent and they got money from the DDA that could by state law only be spent in downtown so the $$ hit was very low. Or the underground parking structure? Paid for with DDA money that can only be spent for infrastructure downtown, not the dollars you paid (for the few here that actually live in the city) unless you live in a brand new building downtown. By any comparison A2 us doing better than any other major city in the state, taxes have not been raised, crime continues to go down and with the $$$ in the pipeline for the stadium bridges, still moving forward in the worst economy ever.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

The DDA just voted to pay the interest on the appx. $50 million general obligation bond with TIF tax funds. The promise was the underground parking costs would be paid from parking revenues. So tax money is paying for the construction of the underground parking.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Only here could someone post that the Rog Mahal is a cost savings for taxpayers.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

The new city hall was NOT needed and the county was willing to extend the lease on the court rooms for another year or two. In tough economic times, waiting would have been prudent. Dennis Dahlmann was willing to sell his City Center building across the street to the City for a very low price. As a city AND county taxpayer, I had to absorb the loss of the rent which punched a hole in the county's revenues and budget. Who paid for a $43 million TAJ MAHAL building? The tooth fairy? The DDA for example has given $12 million in surplus money to the city general fund for firefighters and police over the past five years. See <a href=""></a> If the DDA hadn't spent $59 million on the BIG DIG, it could have given more.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Tim, How dare you bring facts into this discussion. These folks simply do not want to acknowledge that money spent on the new parking structure and on city hall cannot be spent on general operations. They don't (or won't) acknowledge that that money cannot be appropriated to other funds due in large part to the Headlee Amendment and Prop A. If they are unhappy with this circumstance, they ought lobby for ending both. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

Just when are they going to live within a budget like the rest of us do? This is ridiculous and now I know why I don't go downtown. I can find everything I want outside of the city limits. It is time for the employees to take some cuts. Such as benefits. Pay more towards their insurance, etc. I just wish the library did not have most of their events at the downtown branch.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

OK, based on your analogy, can the city change prices or wages (taxes) whenever they feel like it? I can in my home. Can I choose to go into debt if I want to? In fact, the city is REQUIRED to balance their budget. If I choose to pay for things with credit during a point of lower wages (tax revenue) I can do it. Stop this asinine theory that government has ANYTHING to do with how you would run a business or personal finances. It does not and it should not.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:31 p.m.

You make a point in re to coming in under budget but running a city is a little different than running a home. Based on the size and population of a city, a certain amount of funding is necessary and as the story points out, both state funding and property tax revenues are down. What I do not like about A2 is that there is this feeling that they are not transparent about what the money is being spent on. I have always been curious how much the city spends on &quot;low income housing&quot; including the homeless shelter. I search online but I cannot find the figures. Perhaps it is not a financial burden. Either way, the voters appear to approve of it.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

&quot;After years of making painful cuts...&quot; Huh? Years? Of &quot;painful&quot; cuts? &quot;Cuts&quot;? Where? We have public employees being compensated at nearly twice the average wage- our middle class workers are being paid upper class wages. Public employee wages are higher than ever; their benefits are way way above national averages; the cherished gravy overtime pay spigot still flows. Perhaps in August, the city can suspend garbage collection in another ploy similiar to those to which Cash alludes. The &quot;painful cuts&quot;, substantial public employee compensation reductions, await. Many believe they are long overdue.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

I agree with you Alpha...The city charter requires 2 mills to go towards city pensions. There's about 740 city employees for a population of 114,000, that's one city employee for every 154 residents. I think we can be more efficient than that with only 27 square miles of territory.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:11 p.m.

Funny how a tax of, say, 2% freaks out some people but they use a credit card that takes 2% out of the merchant (who probably passes it along in his or her pricing) and no one seems to even think about it. I like the idea of an out of state tuition tax - if it allows more state people to attend UM, then all the better.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Rose Garden, it's the idea that the tax is &quot;regressive&quot; meaning the less financially fortunate pay a greater percentage of their disposable income for services they can't afford to enjoy like increased parking fees, increased water fees, increased property taxes, all regressive taxes making it harder for limited income folks to survive. An &quot;income&quot; tax is far more equitable but is being avoided by the mayor and others because of special interests and good old boy networks.

Rose Garden

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

Every state that I regularly visit has a higher sales tax than 6%. I still go to restaurants and purchase merchandise. I doubt that a raise in sales tax will cause people to shop elsewhere.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

I'd like to see a tax on every item sold in the USA.From a pack of gum to a house Give the states a 6% sales tax the counties would get 4% the federal government gets 3% and the cities 2%. That would be a 15% sales tax on everything sold in th US. Now get rid of income and property tax.The government has a more stable source of income and you dont pay tax unless you buy something. Plus for the states people visiting help pay for the support of your state.

Atticus F.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

That would disproportionally effect the poor.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

The last time the mayor had money in the budget he embarked on a lunatic spending spree. Just look at the gleaming new police station. It's ugly, expensive and completely unnecessary, especially when they should have been shrinking the police force to fit the building. Instead we have a bloated police bureaucracy and a blown budget. Now the mayor is floating lead balloons such as income taxes and sales taxes to shore up his inability to make the tough decisions we was elected to make. Get with it mayor! Do your job. Make your numbers. Stop whining about not getting enough of the taxpayer's money.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

@Mick The city was not allowed to renew its lease for the court. The decision was build versus lease. The cost of the building is NOT part of the budget. They fall under capital projects. The fact is, there will now be no lease on the courts, the police will have a building that will not kill them, and the building is functional for many years into the future. The problem with the anti-build crowd is they do not understand that things need to be replaced. The costs ALWAYS go up if you push it farther down the road. The current Stadium Bridge is a prime example of this. I want the city to build state of the art facilities so that we aren't antiquated in 2015 like podunk towns become.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

My understanding is that the monster is not just a police station. Doesn't it also expand city offices and the 15th District Court too? AAPD was working in terrible facilities and it came to a head when it was found the air quality was unhealthy. I think the need for a new police facility - which should be strictly functional and not aesthetic - was used for a lot of piggy backing. Am I incorrect, is all that for the AAPD?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Let's not forget the man behind the curtain, the puppet master, who doesn't even live in Ann Arbor...Roger Fraser.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

&quot;I don't think there's a local government left in the state that doesn't have fewer police officers and firefighters,&quot; Hieftje said. And there aren't many local governments left in the state that has seen a significant cut in administrative cost!


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

Grand Rapids administrators all cut their salaries. Lead by example. Ann Arbor administrators?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

Everything I need to buy is outside of Ann Arbor. I already avoid downtown because of the &quot;tax&quot; to shop (aka parking fees). I only go downtown for things I want to enjoy. With a reduced income in the household, those are much more rare. Go ahead and ratchet up the parking fees and the sales tax. It will make it even easier to avoid going into the city limits in Ann Arbor.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

That is what I am thinking. Based on where I live, I have a choice of shopping in A2, Pittsfield Twp, and other locations. I think though that if many people stop and think about it, paying 1 or 2% more in A2 is still less expensive than traveling further to get the tax break. Works the other way too, the increase might stop folk from driving further if a tax is higher.

Kim Kachadoorian

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

When I lived in Washington State they had this crazy tax system - differed by county, city etc. It was awful. If you worked in retail it was worse - a return from another &quot;tax area&quot; was always troublesome. Every time we up or create a new is supposed to help yet it eventually starts being drained and strained. The lottery was for &quot;education&quot;, yet what suffers - education. I want reality based planning, transparency in the process and stop running the government like it is a free for all 24-hour ATM with endless amounts of cash. Stop with the crazy projects and maintain our infrastructure and core services and then maybe we will have some money left over. I still cannot understand a HUGE hole in the ground vs. fixing a bridge that has been falling down for years. It is as if our priorities are all messed up! A new &quot;tax&quot; won't help the situation. Infrastructure and core services - keep our head above water for now. Families have budgets and are are struggling so they buy needs not wants. Infrastructure and core services are needs - go for wants in more flush years.

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

All you have to think is the difference between Snyder and Granholm and then ask how the Ann Arbor administration is Snyder or Granholm?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

How is Snyder behaving? He can't even get his precious &quot;remove the price tag requirement&quot; passed!


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Bablat &quot;There isn't a tax yet that the citizens of Ann Arbor didn't like!&quot;...yes there is. For some reason people don't support a tuition tax on the colleges. What is it, 45%+ of the students at U of M are from &quot;Out OF State&quot;. Those students and their families haven't contributed one dime in taxes to support Michigan or the college. Yet these Out of State people get to benefit from all of the assets funded by Michigan tax payers. I have no problem, no problem at all taxing people from out of State that use Michigan taxpayer paid for assets. Most of these out of state students come into our state, use Michigan assets and then leave. If a tuition tax was imposed it would solve the funding problem for Ann Arbor and other cities in Michigan. Best of all, most of the revenue associated with a tuition tax would be from money outside of the State of Michigan. In other words, a tuition tax would bring in money to Michigan, rather than just taxing Michigan taxpayers more. Lets be honest, these out of state students who come to Michigan, use Michigan assets and then leave have no vested interest in the State of Michigan. Why would we not charge them for using our assets? If they don't want to pay the tax so what. There is a long list of in state students that would love to go to our tax payer funded colleges but can't because an out of state student took the spot.

Atticus F.

Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

Also, when these students pay rent, it contributes to property taxes. Also, the student presence has created a greater demand for housing, which increases property values. Do you honestly believe we would have the same services in this city if there were no student population?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

Rates for non-Michigan students are THREE times as much as they are for Michigan residents. So of course, non-Michigan students are valued by the school. Maybe the answer is for any amount of tuition charged over and above the resident rate be turned over to the city to provide services for those non-Michigan students.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

I would support a tuition tax but these out of state students do pay taxes here. Sales tax when they buy their beer and booze. Income tax for the jobs they are working. Property tax is included in the rent they pay. Taxes in gasoline for their cars.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

I can't see Ann Arbor passing a regressive tax.


Tue, Feb 15, 2011 : 3:13 p.m.

They've increased many &quot;fees&quot; which is basically a regressive tax.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:54 p.m.

I say we make it mandatory any and all city workers and officials works for minimum wage and receive a medical plan that fits into the best interest of the tax payers &quot; maybe something like McDonalds offers &quot; that would save us a ton of money.. So we can start with asking Mayor John Hieftje and other local officials to step up and accept the pay cut for the good of the city...

Boo Radley

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Ron, Do you want the city's police officers and firefighters to also have the same level of training and education as a McDonalds counter person? Keep cutting public safety pay and benefits and that is what you will end up with. That would sure make me feel safe ... have police officers out there attracted by a minimum wage salary and no benefits.

Silly Sally

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

Mayor 'Lefty&quot; can't manage a budget, demonstrated by his BIG DIG hole next to the downtown library, the city hall construction, the many, many road construction projects fro bicycles, and art and social programs. To balance the budget after all of his pet projects left Ann Arbor i the red, he has begun to cut vital services such as the fire department. Now he wants to restore it by raising taxes. While true that the city has lost revenue due to UM buying up property, especially the Park Davis&gt;&gt;Warner Lambert&gt;&gt;Pfizer sale to UM, this is all the more reason not to spend needlessly. He spent money for luxuries and now he wants to rais taxes to pay for them. I rather decide how to spend my money instead of Mayor &quot;Lefty&quot;


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

There isn't a tax yet that the citizens of Ann Arbor didn't like!

Rod Johnson

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

Except for the fact that, you know, *not*.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

Medicinal dope is fairly popular.

5c0++ H4d13y

Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

The last school millage was voted down.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:21 p.m.

Mr. Gillmore gets it right in the article. This would be another poor tax that would disproportionately affect the most those who can least afford it. Any attempts to raise revenue should be progressive so that those would can afford it bear more of the burden.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:09 p.m.

I did not buy that. One or two percent more is not a huge burden. You second point will be accomplished. If only the wealthy can buy high priced items, that one or two percent will result in more revenue. Those who can least afford items are buying inexpensive items thus the burden is not so significant. In times of fiscal distress, everyone has to assist, not just one class of people.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

Mayor Leftie's solution to any problem is to raise taxes. A local sales tax will just encourage more people to shop elsewhere and to shop on the web (no sales tax there).


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 1:58 a.m.

&quot;Are you an absconder?&quot; I don't think that word means what you think it does.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 7:06 p.m.

You are right in re to the Mayor's thinking but as the story points out, both state funding and property tax revenues are significantly down. You can cut so much, but as some point, some of those revenues will have to be replaced somehow. I back in December how irritated some people were simply because the city decided not to pick up Christmas trees put at the curb. Odd, I find it that people are against funding but want services continued.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Obviously you know little of the LAW, or facts, since this is being done in most of the other states and people do not go elsewhere to shop. Online shoppers are required to pay a use tax. If you do not, you are a tax cheat. You are advocating breaking the law. Don't let facts get int he way of a good story though. The proper argument against sales tax is their regressive nature.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

Are you not aware that when you file your state taxes, there's a box available for you to tally the year's internet purchases and include your state sales tax liability for those purchases? Are you an absconder?


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

As I posted yesterday, it's the orchestrated scheme we all knew was going on behind the curtain: 1. Fund frivolous projects 2. Cut funding for core safety services. 3. Close fire station 4. Blame the firefighters 5. Introduce to taxpayers a possible new revenue stream as though it will &quot;save&quot; core safety services If not income tax, sales tax. And the planned blame game is to say that it is NOT the result of poor administrative planning/budgeting, frivolous spending, choosing pet, no.... it's the fault of the city workers. The administration is here to &quot;save&quot; core services for the taxpayers. Oh brother.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 11:31 a.m.

Sure go ahead and get greedy. People will just shop elsewhere. Then your revenues will drop some more.


Mon, Feb 14, 2011 : 4:23 a.m.

@snoopdog - this is why a local sales tax is typically (in this case and across the country) discussed at a county level. Ann Arbor, Ypsi, Saline, Chelsea, Pittsfield - they're all part of the same local-regional economy, which is why establishing a sales tax at the county, rather than municipal, level makes sense. Many/most states allow for this local option. I lived in New Jersey for a while and remember sales tax ranging from 6% to 10% across Penn-NJ-NY area, depending on how far you were willing to drive - nobody there thought this gas-vs-tax tradeoff was odd.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

You won't have to drive to Jackson to save money. You can drive 5 miles over to Ypsi,Saline, etc. You buy 200 bucks of groceries, spend 100 at a restaraunt and the savings adds up over a years time period. Dumb idea, tax revenue will go down, not up.


Sun, Feb 13, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

Yes you must be so right. We all know that people are going to drive to Jackson to spend money over 1%.. Come on kids, we are saving $1 on our $100 purchase, we need to drive 45 miles and waste 2 gallons of gas to do it. The evidence that your hypothesis won;t happen is the dozens off other states that do this, including Ohio. The state should do what it promised with revenue sharing, but that won;t happen under this governor.