Memo outlines street tax guarantees

A pothole in Grand Rapids. (file photo)

GRAND  RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD ) — Grand Rapids officials want to extend a tax that was supposed to be temporary by another 15 years to fix city roads.

The vote on the extension will take place on May 6. But how do you, the taxpayer, know all the money will be put towards what is promised?

24 Hour News 8 found the answers outlined in a memo to Grand Rapids city commissioners.

If approved by voters, the extended income tax would bring in just under $10 million a year.

According to the memo, 84 percent, or $8.3 million, would fix up streets, while the remaining 16 percent would help rebuild sidewalks.

If approved, city residents would no longer have to pay for sidewalk repairs.

General fund money would still fund street repair, at least $500,000 a year, according to Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom.

Dipping into an extra $10 million in revenue could be tempting in tough times, but the memo outlined safeguards that would keep that from happening.

One of those safeguards involves the public. The city commission would appoint a Vital Streets Oversight Commission, which would make recommendations to the city manager and city commission on how to spend the money. It would also follow up on how the money is being spent.

Revenue from the income tax would go into a special capital improvement fund.

The city would also bring in an outside auditing firm to check the numbers and report to the city commission.

If approved, anyone who works in the city would pay the tax.

If the extension seems like taxation without representation, the committee that came up with the idea for the extension figured everyone who drives on city streets, specifically those who come to the city for work, ought to pay for the upkeep.

As for any organized opposition, The Kent County Taxpayer Alliance is against the tax.

Officials with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce said they want to see the guarantees that general fund dollars will still be used to fund streets before deciding how they’ll come out in the ballot issue.

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