Wyoming leaders discuss property tax increases after income tax proposal fails

WYOMING, MI – Wyoming city leaders are considering several different property tax increase options to put before voters to fund about $6 million in annual public safety and parks needs.

The discussion among the Wyoming City Council on Monday, May 9, came a week after voters on May 3 shot down a possible funding solution that called for instituting an income tax but decreasing property taxes by about half.

During the work session Monday, Wyoming city staff presented council with three potential property tax increase options the public body could put on the November 2022 or May 2023 ballot.

There was no consensus among elected leaders on which of the three options to put before voters and on which ballot. City council is expected to take up the issue again at their Monday, May 16, meeting.

The income tax proposal failed May 3 by 6,055 votes to 2,823, or 68.2% to 31.8%, according to the official results from the Kent County Clerk’s Office.

It would’ve generated about $6 million in annual revenue and been used to hire 27 firefighters for the department that city officials have described as understaffed and overworked, hire 13 more police officers to allow for more proactive public safety work and invest in repairs and replacements in the aging parks system, city officials previously said.

Related: Property tax increase, service cuts could be on table after Wyoming income tax proposal shot down

Wyoming voters on May 3 also narrowly approved a bond proposal from Wyoming Public Schools that won’t raise taxes as well as a proposal that would’ve reduced property taxes if the income tax measure passed.

“To me, that reads that people are barely willing to keep taxes the same and that is a challenge this body is going to have to overcome, because we’re soon going to be asked to do the same or more with less,” At-Large Councilmember John Fitzgerald said of the election results.

Related: Proposed Wyoming income tax would hurt competitiveness, business community says

The first two options presented to elected leaders call for funding some degree of public safety needs without additional funds for parks.

The first option would generate about $2.32 million annually for the fire and police departments and would allow the city to fund the positions they currently have, including about 17 interim positions in police and fire hired over the past year. Currently, six of those positions have funding through the next three years but 11 don’t.

The option would raise the current tax rate by about 8%, from 11.7404 mills to 12.6482 mills.

The dollars would allow the city to keep the additional interim police and fire positions. However, it would not provide enough staffing for the city to reopen two of its four fire stations closed due to short staffing.

The second option would raise taxes by about 18%, from 11.7404 mills to 13.8464 mills, and generate about $5.38 million more annually for police and fire.

This tax increase would be enough to cover all identified needs in the police and fire departments and allow the departments to keep the interim positions and hire more.

However, it wouldn’t provide any additional funds for parks. The third option would.

Under the third option, taxes would be raised by about 20%, from 11.7404 mills to 14.081 mills.

The increase would generate $5.38 million for public safety as well as $600,000 for capital investments in parks. It would cover all needs identified by the city.

Some councilmembers expressed concern about putting another tax increase measure back before voters this November after they so recently shot down the income tax proposal. They favored putting the item on the May 2023 ballot.

Regardless of whether a tax proposal ends up on the November or May ballot, it would go into effect summer 2023 if passed.

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