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I had really hoped to take a break from discussing the potential for a city income tax in Ypsilanti, but people keep sending me stuff like this picture. She just tugs at your heart strings. And that penmanship is pretty awesome for a toddler.
So here we are just five days away from a vote on whether or not the City of Ypsilanti should adopt an income tax, and if so, in what form should it take. Since I’m not really familiar with the issue, I went over the City’s web site looking for some information that might help me make an informed decision. As luck would have it, there is a nice link on the front page that takes me to a time line defining how the City has to rush this measure through. Also on the front page is a link to the language for the proposed ordinance. I don’t have much time to read up on this, so I’d better understand how they are trying to screw me over. If Iraq can write and adopt a constitution by October 15th, then I can learn about an income tax in just three business days. Piece of cake.
Browsing around the site, I realize there is an entire section devoted to the income tax and the story behind the income tax. The Plante & Moran Income Tax Study is there for me to read. That’s a good thing. What I’d really like to see though is just what the Blue Ribbon Committee on City Finance recommended to City Council. From reading the City’s web site, I noticed that the BRCCF has been meeting since March of 2004. I’ll bet there is some interesting analysis and alternate income tax scenarios in there. The funny thing is I can’t find their report anywhere. That must be some kind of mistake. It’s probably my computer’s fault.
Having only the ordinance to go by then, I’m curious to know how an income tax might affect me and my family. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out what I’d owe, but if the City had a calculator or something on their site, it’d go a long way to helping me understand all of this. Again, I can’t find it, but I did learn how to update my version of Adobe Acrobat Reader to v4.0.
I realize that four paragraphs is a long way to go for a joke that isn’t really all that funny, but it won’t be all that funny when you vote for or against an income tax proposal that you don’t even understand. I’ve had intelligent people tell me they thought an income tax would save them hundreds of dollars on their property taxes. I’ve had others tell me senior citizens will get punished if there isn’t a rollback provision. I’ve even had one person write me and say they are excited to get an income tax because there will finally be money to buy a new ladder truck for the fire department and jump start the Water Street Project.
NONE OF THAT IS TRUE!
I know I’m not very serious very often, but this is what’s happening. Our City Council and the rest of the City staff are trying to keep you in the dark about this for as long as they can so this measure can sneak onto the ballot. That’s the only valid reason that I can see for these documents and tools to be missing from the City’s web site. I guess you could try and argue that the City doesn’t know how to provide these tools to the people, but I don’t believe it.
At the July 13th meeting, the BRCCF asked City Manager Ed Koryzno to put a calculator on the City’s web site that was capable of allowing people to calculate the impact of an income tax. I created one for everyone the next day. It was sent that day to BRCCF as well as Ed Koryzno, City Clerk Cherry Lawson, and the City’s Finance Director Marilou Uy.
So I refined it a few times here putting in recommendations from members of the BRCCF as well as Ms. Uy.
Still nothing happened.
While I was doing my thing, Rodney Smith of the Ypsilanti Courier developed a remarkable math model used to predict revenue the City would get depending on what variables they used. He sent me his first version on Monday the 18th. His math model was sent to the BRCCF, the City’s legal counsel Mr. Barr, Mayor Farmer, and the rest of City Council on July 21st. That morning I put his model into a format suitable for the web.
In the mean time, members of the BRCCF are emailing back and forth with Assistant City Manager Robert Bruner about getting this stupid calculator on the City’s web site. Eleven emails back and forth cross my desk including one from Mr. Bruner stating he’d unveil his version of a calculator at the Tuesday the 26th special City Council meeting. That’s cool. They don’t have to use mine. It bruises my ego a little, but I only care about getting something on the web site for the people to use.
The catch here is that Mr. Bruner created an Excel spreadsheet that the IT people from Washtenaw County have to turn into code before it can be posted on the City’s web site. I was told the County was busy but they’d try and put a rush on it. Whatever. In the spirit of regional cooperation, last night I turned Mr. Bruner’s spreadsheet into a web page. One for residents and one for non-residents. This morning my code was turned over to County IT.
Still nothing. WTF? Am I dreaming here or something?
You can draw your own conclusions on this one, but I would encourage you to email the City Manager or Ms. Uy or the Mayor or every single person on City Council and ask them what in the hell is going on here.
City Manager Ed Koryzno
City Finance Director Marilou Uy
Mayor Cheryl Farmer
Mayor Pro-Tem S.A. Trudy Swanson
Councilmember Lois Richardson
Councilmember John Gawlas
Councilmember Bill Nickels
Councilmember Barry LaRue
Councilmember Brian Filipiak
I’ll be straight with you. I understand the math behind the income tax better than anyone. A calculator or the final report from the BRCCF isn’t going to help me. The City and the members of City Council are breaking a trust they are supposed to have with the people in their rush to sneak this through. If that doesn’t bother you, then we get what we deserve.
The County IT department has let the City down, so Bob Bruner has linked the City’s web site to mine. First the State bails on the City of Ypsilanti. Now the County is sticking it to us. Kudos to Mr. Bruner for getting a calculator on the City’s web site.
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