Oct. 23 2013 12:00 AM

Charlotte income tax proposal is playing factor in mayoral race

Charlotte voters will decide if the Eaton County seat will become the 23rd Michigan city to levy a local income tax. The proposal, debated for nearly a year by City Council, would raise an estimated $1.1 million to $1.5 million annually if levied at the maximum 1 percent on residents and .5 percent on non-residents.

The bulk of the money would go to roads repair, according to City Manager Gregg Guetschow. A combination of a steady decline in state revenue sharing and stagnant property values has forced the city to reduce its 50-person workforce by six full-time employees and defer needed road repairs. A companion charter amendment on the ballot earmarks 2.3 mills from the property tax for roads in any year the income tax is collected. (State law does not allow earmarking local income tax revenue.)

Proponents note that many workers at Hayes Green Beach Hospital and other large city businesses are commuters. The income tax would result in their providing direct support for city services including local roads.

City Council debated the income tax proposal for nearly a year. Guetschow said there was very little public comment, pro or con, voiced at public hearings or Council meetings.

The tax proposal, approved by a 5-2 Council vote, is a key issue in a three-way race to succeed Deleski Smith as the city’s mayor. (Charlotte has a Council/city manager system.)

Eight-year City Councilman Kevin Weissenborn, an administrator with the Michigan Department of Corrections, voted in favor of placing the income tax on the ballot, but declines to state how he will vote on the issue.

“Anytime you are asking for citizens to consider a tax increase, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to take a position,” he said. Weissenborn said the city will have to continue to reduce services if the ballot proposal falls short.

Candidate Carrie Burch, who works at a downtown jewelry store, opposes the income tax: “It is bad for business and will be a heavy burden on lower-income families.” As an alternative, she proposes a threeyear increase in property taxes and cutting funding for the Charlotte municipal airport.

The third candidate for mayor, Scott Cuttle, declined a request for an interview.

Three candidates are running unopposed for four-year terms on the City Council: incumbent At-Large member Corey Sanders, and newcomers Yvonne Hannold-Ridge in the 1st Ward and Scott Cuttle in the 2nd Ward.