Voiced opposition to income tax heard at Mount Pleasant City Commission public hearing
Only one of the 16 people who spoke at a public hearing on the possibility of an income tax for the City of Mount Pleasant was in favor of its implementation.
At Monday’s city commission meeting, the public hearing was held to gather input from residents about a potential income tax or millage increase to deal with the deficit facing Mount Pleasant.
The income tax commissioners were asking for input on a would be a one-percent tax on anyone living in the city with taxable income and a half-percent tax on non-residents working in the city.
While experiencing a decrease in state shared revenue and other funding, City Manager Kathie Grinzinger explained how the municipality has tried numerous ways to save money, such as reducing employees in nearly every department since 2005 and has still managed to keep a relatively unchanged millage for the past 20 years.
But, now, there is considerably more money going out of the city than coming in, Grinzinger said, and something must be done.
“This year’s deficit is $200,000,” Grinzinger said. “Next year, it will be more. As I mentioned, three years ago, the City Commission asked the public what they were willing to cut. Today, the commission is asking what you are willing to spend.”
The City Commission has been looking into implementing an income tax for more than 20 years. In December, the 2013 budget was passed utilizing $534,000 from the surplus savings account.
“I don’t want to raise anyone’s blood pressure with them thinking, ‘Oh, they’re going to do this income tax,’” Vice Mayor Sharon Tilmann said at the Feb. 13, 2012, meeting. “No, we’re trying to study what would be the best alternative for the city so we can continue to provide service.”
Commissioner Jim Holton said the commission cannot implement the tax without the approval of voters.
In the coming weeks, the commission will vote whether to put the potential income tax on the ballot during an election.
Tilmann echoed Holton.
“We are not voting to adopt or not adopt an income tax. We are asking for feedback,” Tilmann said. “… We can’t make that decision. We have to give it to the voters.”
Michael Kostrzewa spoke, representing a group of 41 certified public accountants, explaining that only one was in favor of the tax, 33 were opposed, and seven had no opinion.
Jim Moreno was the lone supportive resident for the tax.
“If the state isn’t going to invest in things like clean water, trash pickup, 911 services, clean roads, fire protection, police protection, who is?” Moreno said. “It’s not that I’m so happy about income taxes, it’s just that I think that the question to ask is, “If we don’t have income taxes, what’s going to happen to our city and the quality of life?’ I think that’s what we have to consider.”
Taxation without representation was a common theme, with many pointing out that non-residents would be paying a tax without having a voice in the decision.
Others offered alternative solutions to a tax, like Mike Fisher, who proposed examining ways to increase revenue in other areas.
Angela Riedel said she used the online calculator the city put on its website to see how much she would pay if there was an income tax or if the milage was raised.
Riedel said the calculator showed she would pay $60 for a milage increase, as opposed to $390 if an income tax was adopted.
“I’m happy to pay my share,” Riedel said. “I think the services here in Mount Pleasant are wonderful. I’ve lived out of the country, and I think they are fabulous here. I love the town, and I understand we have to have money to support that. So, my say is just that I’m not sure what this income tax will be supported on.”
If the income tax is to appear on the ballot in November, the commission needs to come to a decision by the next meeting on March 25.
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