Wyoming leaders study income tax levy

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — With business expanding, a revamped 28th Street business corridor plan in place and other successes, things are on the upswing in Wyoming.

But the upswing hasn’t made up for the loss of major employers, drops in property values and elimination of state revenue sharing over the last decade.

“I think we’re still several years out from breaking even from where we were prerecession,” Wyoming Assistant City Manager Megan Sall said.

Cuts and consolidation in city services, like slimming staff, moving 911 dispatch operations to Kent County, closing City Hall on Fridays and reducing employee health and retirement benefits have helped — but not enough.

So city leaders recently began brainstorming ideas to bring in more revenue. A report generated by one of those discussions laid out a case for asking voters to approve an income tax.

Like similar income taxes in Grand Rapids, Walker and 20 other Michigan cities, anyone who lives or works in the city would pay the tax. Based on a 1 percent tax for residents and .5 percent for nonresidents, the feasibility study put the revenue generated at about $23 million per year. The city would sweeten the deal for residents by reducing property taxes.

But what about nonresidents? They don’t get to vote on the tax.

“But also, those folks are using public safety. They’re using the water and sewer services,” Sall noted, who also stressed the income tax is just an idea.

“There’s nothing that’s being prepared for the ballot at this time,” she said. “This study was really about options. What it could potentially do for us? And now where do we go from here?”

But Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker suggested the idea may be further along that the city is letting on.

“When you do a study, clearly they’ve kind of said maybe this is something we want to analyze deeper,” he said.

The Chamber represents many of the businesses whose employees would be paying that tax. While not dismissing the idea, Baker said the Chamber wants to be involved in the process.

“We don’t want to be viewed as just someone who’s coming in from the outside, but we want to be a partner,” he said. “We want to convince businesses who will be impacted, make sure they’re aware of how it impact them.”

“Are you creating a climate that’s vibrant?” he said, listing the questions that should go into deciding on the tax. “That is competitive for the business community versus other competing states or communities? So you don’t want to put yourself in a spot where you can’t compete.”

Wyoming officials promise the public will get plenty of chances to add their thoughts to any plans that would put a tax question on the ballot.

The Chamber says it will be watching the process closely as well.