East Lansing Hikes Property Taxes in 2012 Budget

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

There were no last-second budget amendments, arguments or long debates in East Lansing Tuesday night.

East Lansing's City Council unanimously, and quietly, passed its 2012 budget Tuesday.

It's a budget that cuts 7 city positions, none through layoffs, including two in police and fire, and cuts sidewalk repair funds. East Lansing will also increase its property tax rate by 0.7626 mills. But East Lansing city manager Ted Staton says declining property values mean about half of the city's property owners won't see an increase in what they pay.

The city's also using a little more than $500,000 from the its rainy day fund, leaving it with around $2.8 million.

"I think our approach is balanced and protects vital services," said city councilmember Nathan Triplett.

East Lansing originally faced a $3 million deficit, about 10 percent of its $34 million budget. But the city will get $800,000 relief from unexpected revenue sharing funds from the state, even though it will see a decrease of about $1 million in that funding overall. In fact, East Lansing has lost $12 million in revenue sharing funding over the last 10 years alone.

"East Lansing residents will wake up tomorrow and July after we implement [the budget] and not notice a difference," said Staton. "But I don't know how much longer we can do this."

That's because the city has raised its property tax as high as it possibly can without a vote of the people, and if it uses any more money from its rainy day fund, the city's bond rating will take a hit.

"[We] can't raise taxes without a vote of the people, can't use reserves," said Staton. "We're caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place."

That hard place may turn out to mean hard cuts in the years ahead.

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