By Charles Sercombe
City Councilmember Catrina Stackpoole gave it one more try to convince her colleagues to pass a property tax increase.
And again, it went nowhere.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Stackpoole proposed raising the city’s tax rate to the maximum amount allowed before voters have to approve of further increases.
This time, the tax would have been earmarked solely to reduce the city’s debt. The tax increase would have been 2.3 mills, roughly an extra $65 a year for the average homeowner.
The past two attempts to raise the tax rate also fell on deaf ears, but at least then she received a second to her motion to get the proposal on the floor for a vote.
This time, she didn’t even get a second to allow the proposal to be voted on.
Stackpoole was steamed.
She lashed out at her colleagues, saying “this is absolutely absurd.”
The city faces a $700,000 deficit by this time next year, which will force the city to dip into its $2.3 million surplus. The tax increase would bring in an extra $500,000 a year.
None of the councilmembers explained their opposition to the tax, except for Shahab Ahmed who said he supported the increase. That drew sharp questioning from Mayor Karen Majewski who asked him why he failed to second the motion.
In a telephone interview, Councilmember Cathie Gordon said she is opposed to the raising the tax rate now because property owners have been hit with a 40 percent increase in water and sewer rates during the past year.
She said she would be in favor of raising the rate later in the year after giving homeowners some time to absorb the water and sewage increases.
Until this year, Hamtramck’s financial picture was looking good. But a combination of things have changed that outlook: the increase in home foreclosures, the closing of American Axle, a loss of state revenue and a dispute with Detroit over how much tax revenue is shared from the GM Poletown plant.
Detroit has been withholding $2 million from last year and $1 million so far this year from the Poletown plant. Hamtramck officials are negotiating with Detroit to restore the payments.
City Manager Bill Cooper met with Detroit officials on Wednesday, and he said the meeting went well. He said he expects to hear back from Detroit about the matter within six weeks.