Resolution Passed Implementing Income Tax and Property Tax Reduction

Friday, August 17, 2018, 7:44 am
By: 
Dan Totzkay

Following voters of East Lansing approving a city income tax by a 22-point margin, at this week’s meeting, East Lansing's City Council passed a resolution formally implementing the income tax and associated property tax reduction on January 1, 2019. Councilmembers and the City Manager also remarked on its passage, praising voters and others for the outcome.

The now-passed Charter Amendment will apply an income tax rate on individuals working in East Lansing of 1% for residents and 0.5% for the income of non-residents working in East Lansing. The tax is limited to 12 years and its implementation will trigger a reduction in East Lansing property taxes of about 10%, as approved by voters last November.

The income tax and property tax will begin in January 2019, and the resolution passed on Tuesday can be viewed here.

In her comments on the vote, Council Member Shanna Draheim first expressed thanks to those in the community who have been engaged on the issue of the income tax and the City budget, more broadly, regardless of their stance on them.

Draheim went on to commend those who participated in canvassing and public opinion activities, stating they were “great signs of democracy.” She concluded that the passage of the income tax was an “incredibly important milestone for the future financial sustainability of this community.”

Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann thanked voters, the Financial Health Team, East Lansing firefighters, City Manager George Lahanas, City Attorney Thomas Yeadon, and Council, stating that “you don’t go from a 6-point loss to a 22-point win without a whole lot of work from a whole lot of people.”

Speaking about the voters, Altmann noted that Council was given much feedback and that citizens were consistently informed on the measure, stating “people could have tuned out but instead they tuned in.” Altmann remarked on the Financial Health Team’s hard work and said that the income tax was their top recommendation. On firefighters, Altmann noted he learned how much they liked a challenge, as they took on the income tax, developed the “Yes For Safety” campaign, and “busted their butts in taking it into the community.”

Altmann went on to acknowledge Council’s organizing committee, Lahanas who gave the same budget presentation 35 times, Yeadon who “guided us through uncharted legal territory,” as no other municipality has approached this problem similarly, and, finally, the Council and Mayor who have been pursuing this for two years.

Mayor Mark Meadows then also took time to thank voters and volunteers. Stating he felt this election “had a ballot proposal that was crafted by the people in this community,” Meadows remarked on how different canvassing was compared to the November 2017 election. Meadows credited this to being more data-driven in their employment of an EPIC-MRA poll for public opinion as well as having a high volume of volunteers in the neighbor.

Using the Whitehills neighborhood as an example, Meadows noted the income tax previously lost by around 200 votes in Whitehills, while this time it only lost by 9 votes there. Meadows concluded by saying “really, thank you to the people of the city for recognizing this is an important change for the community.”

Finally, City Manager Lahanas thanked Council for its leadership in getting the measure on the ballot and then “stepping back and taking lots of time to listen to people, invite people in for citizen engagement in lots of different ways” to participate in a number of ways. Lahanas also thanked the Financial Health Team for its effort and the residents of East Lansing for their support.

Citing a high level of optimism that East Lansing will be in a “much stronger financial footing for the future,” Lahanas expressed his belief that this “will be a great turnaround for the city… I’m certainly pleased to be here and to be able to move the community forward.” Lahanas also noted the City was committed to share information about where the income tax dollars were appropriated as they move forward.

During the meeting, Council Member Aaron Stephens and City Attorney Tom Yeadon did not remark on the income tax vote. Councilmember Ruth Beier was not present for the meeting.