Property tax increase, service cuts could be on table after Wyoming income tax proposal shot down

WYOMING, MI – Service cuts or an increase in property taxes could be on the table after Wyoming voters Tuesday shot down a proposal to generate revenue with a new city income tax.

“The council is going to have to take a look at this and make a determination about how we’re going to address these needs,” said Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt.

Wyoming voters Tuesday, May 3, shot down a proposed move to slash property taxes by about half but levy an income tax of up to 1% on corporations and residents and up to 0.5% on those who work in the city but live outside of it.

The income tax would’ve generated about $6 million in annual revenue and been used to hire 27 firefighters for the department that city officials have described as understaffed and overworked, hire 13 more police officers to allow for more proactive public safety work and invest in repairs and replacements in the aging parks system, Holt said.

The income tax proposal failed 6,055 votes to 2,824, or 68.2% to 31.8%, according to the unofficial results from the Kent County Clerk’s Office.

The other tax measure, which would’ve slashed property taxes and lowered the cap, was approved by voters by a measure of 2,282 votes to 1,684, or 60.8% to 39.2%, according to the unofficial results from the Kent County Clerk’s Office.

However, both measures needed to pass for them both to go into effect, so property taxes will not be cut as a result of voters approving the second measure but not the income tax item.

Now that voters have shot down the income tax funding proposal, it will be up to the Wyoming City Council on how best to fund these gaps.

That could mean increasing an existing millage or imposing a new one. Either option for a new or increased property tax would require a vote of the people, Holt said.

Currently, the city levies a property tax of 11.8 mills. Wyoming city officials previously said an alternative to the income tax is to increase the city’s property taxes by an additional 2.5 mills.

It could also mean city leaders cover the gaps with cuts to other municipal services, Holt said.

Holt said the city council will likely discuss the issue during an upcoming work session Monday, May 9.

Some have suggested the city utilize other funds like federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to cover the gaps. But Holt said it’s not realistic to hire additional personnel on one-time use dollars that must be expended within the next two years.

Related: Proposed Wyoming income tax would hurt competitiveness, business community says

City leaders could opt to neither cut services nor put additional property taxes on the ballot.

Holt said Wyoming staff is already lean, resilient and continues to provide great service. But at some point, he said, there could be a breaking point.

Because of staffing shortages, at any given time only two of the city’s four fire stations are manned, resulting in reduced response times, exhaustion from call volumes and burnout.

Holt said the city has relied on neighboring fire departments to help respond to calls, but those municipalities are telling Wyoming city leaders that they can’t afford to keep helping, that it’s unfair to their taxpayers.

With the police department, officers each day are largely going from call to call without doing any proactive enforcement and public safety efforts, Holt said. With a national and local increase in gun violence and the complexity those calls bring, the department is in need of more officers, he said.

As for parks, Holt said many of the facilities are almost 30 years old now and parking lots, fencing, playground equipment, shelters and more are in need of additional dollars for repair and replacement to keep them in good shape.

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