Tax hike rejected; jobs cut

By Charles Sercombe

Hamtramck’s government workforce will be trimmed by 11 positions, but that cut in spending still won’t be enough to prevent a budget deficit.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council adopted a budget for the next two years that also includes a 13 percent increase in water and sewer rates. Councilmembers Cathie Gordon, Kazi Miah, Mohammed Hassan and Tom Jankowski twice rejected a motion to raise the city’s property tax rate to its maxim level.

The 2.3 mill tax increase was proposed by Councilmember Catrina Stackpoole, which was based on a recommendation by City Manager Bill Cooper. It is estimated the tax would have generated about $500,000 a year. For the average homeowner, the increase would have cost an extra $65 per year.

Without that millage increase, the city will finish the fiscal year next June 30 $575,000 in the hole. That deficit will be covered by the city’s $2.5 million rainy day fund. But that fund won’t last forever. At the rate the city’s expenses will increase and revenues decrease, the rainy day fund will be drained within two years.

While the increase in property taxes won’t stave off the city’s shortfall in revenue, City Manager Cooper said “it will buy us some time.”

But the four councilmembers who voted the tax increase down were adamant despite the dire warning by Stackpoole and Cooper.

“We just can’t keep running to the residents,” said Miah, who campaigned on a platform pledge to not raise taxes and to cut spending.

But Stackpoole said that without the millage increase, the city would be “cutting into the bone” and threatens “to cut the life out of the city.”

She said it’s a false assumption the public would be against raising taxes in order to minimize cuts in services. She said in the past voters approved tax increases to support the library, recreation and even the Detroit Zoo.

The road to approving the budget took many twists and turns in several hours-long budget work sessions, with some councilmembers flip-flopping on what action to take, which is not necessarily unusual while figuring out a complex budget.

If city officials are unable to balance future budgets, there is a possibility that the state would step in and appoint an emergency financial manager to take financial control of the city. Hamtramck was under the control of a financial manager until four years ago.

Hamtramck was in perfect financial shape until about a year ago when Detroit withheld a $2.1 million payment from the GM Poletown plant. Part of the plant is located in Hamtramck, and the city has an agreement on property tax revenue sharing with Detroit. Detroit officials say part of that agreement has expired.

Hamtramck officials are attempting to negotiate with Detroit to restore the payments. As of now, Detroit owes an additional $1 million, Cooper said.

Talks are scheduled for June, but those involved in the discussion are skeptical Detroit will reverse its position. If that’s the case, there are few options for the city to take to reduce costs. The primary option is to merge the police and fire departments with Detroit or Wayne County – which is an option that will prove to be political dynamite.

Councilmember Tom Jankowski has already fired the first shot. He has said in work sessions that it’s time to take on the two unions and force them to make major concessions. He has said the city can no longer afford the demands of the police and fire unions.

If the state were to step in, chances are there would be a merging of services or merging the city with Detroit.

8 Responses to Tax hike rejected; jobs cut

  1. Cathie Gordon

    May 29, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    FYI and Ms. Stackpoole……those job cuts were slated with the presentation of the budget Mr. Cooper proposed TO INCLUDE THE MILLAGE INCREASE…..soooo, even if we had increased the millage those unfortunate employees would have still been cut…….Please get your facts straight….thankx

  2. hamtramck citizen

    May 30, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    But that doesn’t change the fact, Gordon, that you voted for a budget that spends more than it takes in, by 550,000. I would hope you run our city as least as well as you run your two bit bar, but right now, it looks like that hope is misplaced.

  3. Allam

    May 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Don’t pay attention Gordon, real Hamtramck citizens are behind you.
    Do let them raise our already high taxes.
    Tell them to cut down their spending

  4. Tired of the bullcrap

    June 2, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    DO pay attention, Gordon. We’re so on to you. The fact that you lied about living here (you used your mom’s address to run for council) and it cost the city a whopping $60K (that’s a cop for a year) to investigate makes you one enormous hypocrite. You complain alot, and you gossip alot, and you smoke alot of cigarettes (it’s so lovely to listen to you wheeze and cough during council meetings). What else do you do? Can’t wait to vote you off council. You are bad for Hamtramck.

    Stop trying to win over the Bengladeshi community — we are not infants and cannot be charmed.

    Voters beware: Gordon is the most duplicitous, Machiavellian and manipulative person on council. Her tirades don’t make her concerned, they make her a complainer (not a solver) who uses her position to help out Hamtramckans who drink at her bar. Can’t pass a 5 dollar a month millage? Totally political move. You should hang your head in shame.

    Sterling Heights can have you.

  5. Cathie Gordon

    June 2, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Hey “TIRED…….” you also sound very angry……Maybe you’d like to talk about “it”. Obviously you know where to find me…….hope you have a better day!
    P.S. Please have the courtesy to use your real name next time…….in this USA we all have the given right to be faced by our accusers. Thankx again for your input!

  6. Paru

    June 2, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    I doubt a Bengali would write so flawlessly and with this degree of articulation !

  7. Tured

    June 3, 2010 at 1:57 am

    I’m an American,. Born here. Raised here. Racist comments.

  8. Michael

    June 4, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Seriously… just pass the millage.
    I’ll write a check for $65 to the city now. Merging services with Detroit… are you kidding me? Detroit doesn’t have any services! The police have always been responsive, and it’s the one thing that gives me any kind of peace of mind living in this place.

    Oh wait: being that I have to mow like 4 other lawns AND a city lot on my block… consider that my $65. Can I get a credit with the city?

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