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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

May 3 election: It’s on, with Jeffries a lone voice of opposition

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, Feb. 22 — Brian Jeffries was the lone vote on the Lansing City Council Monday night opposing calling a special election on May 3 on whether to implement a 4-mill property tax increase. It passed 6-1.

Jeffries, an at-large Councilman, was concerned that the increase, which is expected to bring in about $8.5 million for police, fire and road services, will not be backed by voters in May. He said 4 mills is 10 times the size of a property tax increase he proposed last year around this time. The Council would have voted to levy that increase.

“I proposed at that time what I thought was a very modest .4 mills,” Jeffries said. “That didn’t go anywhere. Now we’re looking at 4 mills, something 10 times higher. What is plan B if this doesn’t pass?”

Jeffries also has concerns about what the increase would mean for seniors on a fixed income, especially after Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed to tax their pensions.

“It’s a real significant hit in terms of cost of living for people in this state,” he said.

Jeffries was also concerned about the cost of the election, which City Clerk Chris Swope estimated to be between $50,000 and $60,000. While he added that “I’m not opposed necessarily to a tax increase,” Jeffries wondered how Lansing would appeal to future residents with one of the highest operating millage rates in the region.

Jeffries backed a plan to put the proposal on the August primary ballot so Mayor Virg Bernero’s budget would be adopted first and the Council could see how bad cuts to services really are.

“Taxes will always be there. It’s something that could go up in the future,” Jeffries said.

Council Vice President Kathie Dunbar, who proposed the idea for a May 3 election, said the special election makes sense because voters will impact how the city’s budget turns out and if there will be a $8.5 million boost in revenue to help cover the more than $15 million gap.

“What we’re asking you to do is tell us what to do with this budget,” Dunbar said, addressing the public.

At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood was absent.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved three resolutions Monday appointing a new member to the Lansing Board of Water and Light Board of Commissioners, approving an application for state grant money and moving funds to cover a deficit in the golf fund.

West side resident David Price was appointed to the BWL’s board for a term to expire in June 2014.

The Council also approved an application to the state Department of Transportation for two construction projects on Aurelius Road. It would cost nearly $2 million to rehabilitate and replace two bridge sections just south of Interstate 496. The city would be responsible for paying 5 percent of the project, or about $100,000, while the state would pick up the rest of the tab. The project would be slated for fiscal year 2014.

The Council also approved moving $136,937 from the Parks Millage Fund, which was to be used for a new basketball complex, into the golf fund to offset a deficit from fiscal year 2010.

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