A city income tax was the main topic of discussion at last night’s regular Lowell City Council meeting.
Councilmember Greg Canfield was absent for both the regular meeting and an earlier joint session with the Parks & Recreation Commission to discuss a land swap for the Riverview Flats project. However, all other councilmembers were present during the hour-long meeting that touched on four pieces of new and old business.
City Income Tax Report Presented
In February, City Manager Mike Burns presented the City Council with several options to raise revenues and fund local street projects. One suggestion was to institute a city income tax. The council subsequently authorized a study to explore that suggestion more fully.
At last night’s meeting, Robert Kleine and Mitch Bean of Great Lakes Economic Consulting presented their findings. Their calculations assumed a 1 percent city income tax rate with a $600 exemption. Social Security and pension income would not be taxed. They also factored in a 4 mill reduction in property taxes.
In 2020, the City of Lowell could expect to see income tax collections of $1.483 million. Meanwhile, the city would lose $480,000 in revenue from the 4 mill property tax reduction and would spend an estimated $151,224 to administer the income tax. As a result, the first year net gain for an income tax would be an estimated $851,776. The average homeowner would pay $502 in income tax but receive a $250 cut in property tax for a net tax increase of $252.
When asked if a city income tax would drive away residents and businesses, Kleine said his feeling was that a 1 percent tax wouldn’t make a difference so long as the city is providing good services. Currently, 24 cities in the state charge an income tax, and Kleine thought more municipalities might look to this option as state revenue sharing payments and property tax funds fall short of paying for local government needs.
A city income tax would have to be approved by the voters. No additional action was taken by the City Council on the matter.
Joint Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Recreational Marijuana
The Lowell City Council will meet with the Planning Commission during a January Committee of the Whole to discuss zoning regulations for recreational marijuana facilities. While businesses won’t be able to open until the state finalizes its rules, Burns suggested it might be wise to begin work on a city zoning ordinance now.
Resident Perry Beachum asked if the city would be reconsidering its vote on medical marijuana facilities as well. Earlier in the year, councilmembers declined to allow medical marijuana businesses within the city. Mayor Mike DeVore said there were no plans to revisit the issue.
He added that the recreational marijuana law gives cities more control over businesses than the medical marijuana law does. However, sample medical marijuana ordinances from the Michigan State University Extension indicate cities can control the number and zoning of medical marijuana facilities, which is similar to the regulations allowed for recreational facilities.
Sgt. Chris Hurst Recognized for Courageous Service
During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Police Chief Steve Bukala approached the podium to recognize the work of Sgt. Chris Hurst in responding to a house fire. Sgt. Hurst was first on the scene and was soon joined by Lt. Corey Velzen of the Lowell Are Fire Authority.
Together, they located the lone occupant of the home behind a sliding glass door and were able to break the door and pull him from the building. Shortly thereafter, an oxygen tank in the home exploded. While the occupant did not survive the fire, Chief Bukala wanted to recognize Sgt. Hurst’s efforts.
“Sgt. Hurst is a very humble person and he doesn’t want the recognition, but I asked him to be here tonight. He had no idea why,” Chief Bukala said, and all in attendance recognized the sergeant with a round of applause.
New Councilmember, New Light and More
In other business, councilmembers set a time to interview two candidates for an open city council seat. The position opened when Jeff Phillips resigned to pursue an employment opportunity. Applicants Cliff Yankovich and Pamela Krause will be interviewed on Saturday, December 8th at 12pm in City Hall.
During his city manager’s report, Burns noted that the light at S. Hudson and Bowes Road should be installed by Wednesday. It will flash for two weeks before becoming fully operational.
The electronic speed signs on Main Street have been turned back on, and new ones will soon be installed on Foreman. However, the city has learned that federal law does not allow the use of messages on the speed signs so you will no longer see an affirming “Thank You” when you are within the speed limit.
Finally, the City Council passed a resolution to make changes to Lowell Light and Power billing practices. The change that may be most noticeable to residential customers is that only a two month deposit – rather than a three month deposit – will be required now.
The next regular City Council meeting will take place at 7pm on December 17th at City Hall.