More Tax Comparisons // Eliot Singer

I am very curious about why certain non-city taxes are so much higher in EL/Ingham County than in TC/Traverse Bay/Grand Traverse. I have analyzed why EL city taxes are so high—the disproportionate cost of policing a college town with much smaller tax base than Ann Arbor, with collateral effect on legacy costs, which are mostly for public safety, and the huge amount of money squandered on building public works, without seeking voter approved debt millages, and pursuing public-private development with snake oil finance.

ISD costs might be something to look at through state funding, at least something local legislators might look to as an issue.

I am frankly amazed at the cost differences between CATA and BATA, especially because this is a service I use. CATA is much more used on a per trip/per mile basis and should generate much more fare revenue. It is no secret CATA has been badly mismanaged, and having arrogant officials with grand ambitions is always costly, but there must be additional explanations.

Understanding details of local taxes relative to services you use (even if you are willing to subsidize services for those in need) is important for those seeking places either to retire or to live during working years. There are real differences in level of services, but there are also differences in tax rates for approximately the same level of services. East Lansing used to claim its much higher taxes than Meridian were because of better services, but that claim was shattered long ago.

I am surprised there has been little public discussion (I suppose city hall wouldn’t dare) about the prospect of neighborhoods seeking annexation to escape East Lansing’s high taxes, especially with the threat of raising taxes and cutting public services, while continuing to embark on costly misadventures, such a Lotto 1.

The state property tax document shows different tax rates for principal residence exemption with East Lansing schools: for City of East Lansing-Clinton (~55 mils), City of East Lansing-Ingham (~60 mils) and Meridian (~48.4 mils), Lansing (~50.5 mils), and Bath Townships ~31.5 mils).

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/taxes/2017_Total_Rates_Report_-_Web_609678_7.pdf

I’m sure the quality of public services in Bath Township are less than in EL, but services in the Northern Tier might not measure up anyway. Annexation by Dewitt might also be a possibility. Lansing Township has its own financial troubles, probably much worse than those of EL.

But it is really Meridian annexation which would seem most likely, already a savings of nearly 12 mils, before further tax increases. The attempt by some Whitehills residents to seek Meridian annexation twenty-plus years ago failed. But that was a very different time, before discontent with EL government was so widespread. It would be easy to run a campaign pointing to essentially giving away an $18 million asset (Lot 1) for a pet project backroom deal and piggybacking hundreds of thousands in secret to pay the developer’s lawyer, while pleading poverty and blackmailing voters with threat to cut public services they use if they don’t agree to higher taxes.

 

Eliot Singer

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