Jackson Lays Off 15, Cuts Services After Court Voids Stormwater Fee

By: Anthony Sabella Email
By: Anthony Sabella Email

How much can $32 a year get you? A lot in Jackson.

"The leaf pickup, getting the leaves out of the streets, getting the basins cleaned. It paid for street cleaning," said Mayor Martin Griffin of Jackson.

It all came from a stormwater fee the city put into place two years ago, which charged residents a flat $32 per year fee for cleanups and a varied rate for non-residential properties depending on lot size and other factors.

But a lawsuit from Jackson County and two other Jackson businesses put the fee into question and earlier this month, the Michigan Court of Appeals voided the fee after declaring it an illegal tax.

At its meeting, Tuesday night, the city council accepted the decision, but Mayor Griffin says it will come at a cost.

"There will be no leaf pickup," he said. "It's going to affect snowplowing to a very large extent."

It also means layoffs for the city workers behind those services.

"The stormwater fee paid the salaries of a great number of people that did those jobs and because we're not collecting the fee, we can't pay the people," said Mayor Griffin.

In total, 15 city employees were let go, Wednesday morning. Most of them came from the Department of Public Works. William Lovejoy has lived in Jackson his entire life and says he'd gladly pay the fee if it meant keeping jobs and having clean streets.

"Of course. If my kids can come outside and have clean streets, I'd be more than willing to do that," he said.

Mayor Griffin says these cuts may only be the beginning if the city decides to refund the $2.8 million its collected since the fee was put into place.

"The only place left is general fund employees and that's police and fire," said Mayor Griffin.

Griffin says the city will decide whether or not to refund over the next couple of months.

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