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Council Presentation September 8th, 2009

September 11th, 2009

Hello, my name is Tom Manting and I’ve been a resident of Portland for 14 years now.

About 5 years ago I had a decision to make.

I was lucky enough to have a saleable home in town and my decision was whether to buy another home in town or move outside.

Obviously I chose to stay in town. My family and I decided the benefits of living in town outweighed the additional taxes we pay. We like having sidewalks, city water, city sewer and parks within walking distance. The point is: I don’t mind paying taxes as long as I feel I’m getting value for my money.

Then something happened that started to change the cost/benefit analysis in my mind: the City bought 58 acres of property in Danby Township.

We bought this property with 1.2 million dollars we didn’t have and for no apparent purpose. The taxpayers of Portland are paying $70,000 per year in interest alone for this property. 

Then we built a bridge that connects two other bridges together. And now we have a brick-inlayed intersection and what appears to be Ionia County’s most expensive Christmas tree stand.

In my mind, the city is not being a very good steward of the money we entrust with it and the city income tax helps pay for these frivolous purchases.  

Now some would have you believe that if we eliminate the city income tax all our roads will fall into disrepair. I’m here to tell you that that just isn’t true.

All money is by definition fungible. In practical terms this means there’s nothing special about one chunk of money that distinguishes it from another. All money can be exchanged for any other money. To the residents of Portland this means that the money collected from the income tax for the street fund is money that doesn’t need to come out of the general fund for road repairs. This frees up an equal amount of money in the general fund for other stuff. So if we eliminate the income tax we just need to pay more attention to what we buy.  

I’ve taken a close look at the city’s budget for this year and what I’ve learned is the city plans to collect $690,000 in revenue from the income tax. When you take out refunds and administrative expenses, the net revenue is budgeted at $516,000. So the income tax brings in about half a million dollars to the city’s coffers. Compare this with a total budget of $11,000,000 and we learn that the income tax makes up less than 5% of the city’s total revenues.

Five Percent.

Any organization, unless it’s gone through a recent belt-tightening can trim 5% from its budget and I believe the city can do this easily without affecting any of the essential city services.  

Here’s how: Trim $300,000 or 3% from next year’s budget. The year after that trim another $300,000. At that time you are in position to repeal the income tax. Simple.

As you know, only the city council can repeal the income tax. The voters have no other way to get rid of it except by electing officials willing to do so. And we have 4 seats up for grabs in the next election.

As you can see, you have a large group of people determined to make the income tax the campaign issue in this election and each of you are going to have to announce your position at some point. I urge you to think closely about this and do what’s right for the families in
Portland.
 

Thank you

Tom Manting

Posted in Income Tax | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Council Presentation September 8th, 2009”

  1. sd.frazee Says:
    September 17th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Tom,

    Great information here. It really helps to answer the question that I have had all along, “How do other communities managed to keep their roads paved without an income tax?” When you consider that the income tax money is only 5% of the overall budget, it seems feasible that by being a bit more fiscally conservative the city could afford to get by without imposing this tax.

    By the way, has anyone found a price tag for the elaborate structure on the Maple Street side of City Hall? Or how much more it cost to have brick inlay put at the intersection of Bridge and Maple? I hope that the city received a discount on the brick work, since it was done so horribly off center to Bridge Street. :) In all seriousness, how did these things find their way into the project in the first place? The architect decided to put them in? The council directed the architect to put them in?

    It is the kind of expenditures that Tom references and that I mention above which make me question the need for the income tax.

    Scott

9/8/09 City Council Meeting. Any public Comment?

September 10th, 2009

 I was unable to attend the meeting on Tuesday due to a 230,000 mile-old wheel bearing which was unwilling to continue. 
Was there any public comment on the income tax issue?

  

Posted in Income Tax | 1 Comment »

Portland Tax Repeal

August 17th, 2009

Hi Everyone,

I started this web site a couple years ago when the city attempted to annex a large chunk of property from our good neighbors in Danby Township. Once that issue was decided I quit updating it, but I kept it in reserve for that day when I felt there was enough support for eliminating the city income tax:

That day has come.

The weblog is open again and it’s open to any city resident, for or against the income tax. I do moderate who gets to post, but this is only to keep the spam at bay. This means you have to register to post and your first post will not appear until I approve it. Once approved, you can post all you like so long as you keep a “civil tongue.”

Welcome!

 Tom Manting

Posted in Welcome | 1 Comment »

Clarification of Detachment Process

April 12th, 2007

Recently, the City of Portland’s Council and Manager commented publicly on the proposed election for detachment of property to Danby Township. Many of their comments misstate the law and mislead the citizens of our community. Their comments are intended to disenfranchise voters and it is important to correct their misstatements.

Mayor Barnes was recently quoted saying, “My reading of the statute is that detachment was out there to protect somebody who was brought into the city without requesting it.” This apparently led to his conclusion that only residents of an annexed property could bring a petition for detachment. The Mayor could not be more wrong. A petition for detachment may be brought by anybody living in the affected communities and need not be brought by anybody living in the area to be detached. In this case, the area proposed for detachment is vacant. Yet, citizens from both the City of Portland and Danby Township have obtained more than enough signatures to put this issue to the voters.

The Portland City Manager recently stated that if the detachment is successful, the City will just reannex the property. Again, this statement ignores the existing law in Michigan. Once the property is detached, the City is prohibited from reannexing the property by resolution.

The City Manager went on to describe the election process as a “tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s efforts.” It is unimaginable that anyone, but especially a city administrative leader, could describe our election process — a process that is at the core of our democracy — as a waste.

The City Council and City Manager must believe that the opinion of the City and Township’s residents are irrelevant. They are ignoring a grassroots effort by citizens of the Township and City communities and decrying the election process as a “waste”. Further, they are spreading incorrect information about the vote either intentionally or out of ignorance, apparently with the ultimate goal of disenfranchising voters. The citizens of Danby Township and the City of Portland deserve better. 

Pam McCormack, Chair

Portland/Danby Concerned Citizens for Responsible Government

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Clarification of Detachment Process”

  1. sd.frazee Says:
    April 17th, 2007 at 6:46 am

    Regarding the comments made by the City it is important to inform people if the statements are erroneous. I have heard from City officials that they do not want the land purchase issue to be a fight in the media. Perhaps I can clarify something for them and give people who read/hear their comments about wanting to keep this out of the spotlight something to think about. No matter how many letters are written to the newspaper or how many blog entries are made concerning this issue, the fight will be at the election polls. That is where the fight will be. The City is trying to quiet people on this issue so that there is no information in the papers or online and for what reason? If they think that what they did will be viewed unfavorably by voters, both City and Township residents, then they should have thought about that before they purchased the land. They knew of the possibility of detachment, the Mayor told me so in an e-mail, so they should be prepared for this. It’s called a contingency plan, they should have planned for the worst case scenario. Therefore they should be ready to accept the consequences of their actions and have a plan in place should the land be detached. Furthermore, this forum and the local newspapers are simply a way of disseminating information concerning this issue. If the City feels that some of this information is not correct, they should step up to the plate, so to speak, and correct it. Maybe an open forum where public comment and questions for the council could be held so that the City Council could share their opinion on these issues, or do they not want to answer to their constituents?
    S.D. Frazee

Community

April 3rd, 2007

It has certainly been wonderful to have been blessed with a nice touch of warm weather over the last couple of weeks.  It is as if the city is beginning to come alive.  It is great to see so many people out enjoying the warm spring air, riding bikes, jogging, walking dogs and visiting the downtown area.  During the bleak and very cold winter months, I could walk my dog on the rivertrail and on a good day see only a couple other hardy souls braving the elements.  (Mr. Duff is certainly a dedicated runner!)   I would like to remind everyone that if you are walking your dogs, remember to bring along some plastic shopping bags for clean up after pets.  As I like to say, people will not always notice when things are clean, but everyone will always notice when things are dirty.  So take pride in our community and clean up after your dog.  Also, and this can be a good teaching moment with children, if you see litter discarded along the trail, pick it up and put it in one of the many containers along the walkway.  I’ll get down off from my soapbox now!  Well, not quite.  In the vein of keeping the city looking nice, I would encourage everyone to assess their yards and landscaping now that winter has released its grip on us and to take appropriate action to clean things up.  Plant a few bulbs, or a tree.  If you have a neighbor who is elderly or might need help, go ask if you can help them out.  You might be surprised at the response.   I pumped gas for one woman this winter during a VERY cold day and in return I got to hear the story of how she received a signed cook book from President Ford because she used to make him cookies when he lived in Grand Rapids, and a hug.  The woman was 86 years old and was fully capable of pumping her own gas!  But she appreciated the help.

On a totally unrelated topic…In advance of the upcoming city council elections, I would like to invite all of the candidates, both incumbents and challengers, to use the forum as a place to post information about themselves.  Portland Concerned Citizens forum is just that, a forum for discussion and information that can be used by everyone.  I would also encourage community members to post questions pertaining to city business that candidates could post answers to.  

Get outside and enjoy the weather!!

Scott

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

PFCU Groundbreaking

March 27th, 2007

Congratulations to the PFCU on their groundbreaking ceremony Saturday, March 24th.  I was unable to make the ceremony but just read about it in the Ionia Sentinel Standard.  I found it interesting that no member of the City was there considering that the PFCU has been a long-standing business in the City.  Is it because they will be moving from the City to Danby Township?  However, I do recall that the City leaders were more than willing to have their picture taken when the  new owners reopened Willow Wood Golf Course even though it is NOT located in the City but in Danby Township.  Where was that community spirit and cooperation that they so loudly preach to the Danby residents?  

Pam McCormack

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

March 10th, 2007 

Taxes - “The City can afford it”

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

The following data comes from the website of the State of Michigan.  The data is from 2005, which I am assuming is the latest year for which data is available. 

The tool used to come up with these figures is called the Property Tax Estimator.  These are the millage rates for some surrounding towns that DO NOT have an income tax.

Portland             38.40

Belding              40.42

Saranac             39.18

Pewamo             36.03

Lake Odessa       39.66

Hubbardston      29.55

Grand Ledge      41.87

Charlotte           39.54

Dimondale         45.97

Potterville          38.72

Westphalia        33.18

St. Johns          34.02

The average millage rate for this group of cities is 38.045 mills.  Portland is just barely above average.  Yet on top of the property tax, which is average, each and every citizen of the city pays 1% of their income to the city every year.  Why is it that other cities of comparable size can run their operations without this 1% income tax? 

When the City Manager, Tom Dempsey is quoted as saying “The City can afford it” in the Sentinel Standard in reference to the land purchase in Danby Township, it really makes me think.  Do we really need to be paying a 1% income tax just so that the city can spend it in an attempt to control zoning and development?  $1,200,000 on land that, by the Mayors admission, the city knew could potentially be taken back by the township.  Some may argue that it is only $50,000 per year in interest that we are paying, which is true, but what is the contingency plan for this property, should in be detached.  Or worse, what if for some reason the property is found to be undevelopable?  When making a purchase of this size, these are all things that should be taken into consideration.  If they were, the city council would do well to reveal these things to the citizens that funded this purchase.

This rant is over for now.  Please consider the above figures and ask yourself the questions above and then decide whether you are willing to step up and get involved. 

 Please feel free to correct my figures if anyone out there has more current information.

Scott

Posted in City Spending, Property Taxes, Income Tax | No Comments »

Record Turn-Out at City Council

Monday, March 5th, 2007

I attended my third city council meeting this evening and I counted six people in the audience (not including the Chief of Police – who I guess is required to attend). Yes, this constitutes a record turn-out (at least since I’ve been attending).
For the record:

  • City residents: 3
  • Non-city residents: 2
  • Unknown: 1

The number of city residents was at least equal to the number of non-city residents, and that may be another first! It seems that folks who live outside the city are more interested in what goes on here than those of us who actually live here. And that’s a sad thing.

I heard two interesting items at the council meeting tonight:

  1. The exclusive (forced) city contract with Granger was renewed for another 3 years. The new contract keeps the rates the same until 2009 then Granger gets either a 3% increase or the inflation rate whichever is less. So, while I oppose the exclusive contract for general reasons (I think we all deserve choices), It looks like the city managed to negotiate a good deal.
    Unlike at the last city council meeting. Get this: the city has been paying 42 cents per minute for long distance to Lansing. And they had to pay a consultant to tell them they were paying too much. They signed a new deal for market rates (1.8 cents per minute) but I wonder: for how many years the city has been paying 1970’s rates for long distance? 
  2. The Cabella’s rumor was laid to rest. City Manager Tom Dempsey announced he’s been in communications with Cabella’s and they are not building a new store in Portland. At least not in Portland, Michigan.

Another thing I learned that wasn’t on the agenda is that Jim Andros is running for City Council. Jim wrote a fantastic letter to the editor about the city income tax in the February 25th edition of the R&O. (Jim, if your out there, please post your letter to the Blog so I don’t have to break any copyright laws.) If you’re so inclined, get a hold of Jim and sign his petition.

The next city council meeting will be March 19th at 7:00 PM in the city hall building. Please plan on attending.

Posted in Council Meetings, Public Apathy | 1 Comment »

City Income Tax’s Time Has Passed

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

First, I say thank you and kudos to Tom for taking the initiative to create this forum. This website and Tom’s letter to editor in the R&O dated March 4 make it clear to me that his intentions are sincere and heartfelt.

Second, let me be clear that I am not a resident of the city proper, but I am a multi-business owner within the city, a graduate of the public school system, and a lifelong resident of the Portland economic and social “district” as it were.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of controversy come and go. Zoning and taxes are always hot button issues. Likewise, I’ve seen periods of booms and busts in terms of the local economy. Naturally, when things look less than rosy economically the landscape is ripe for controversy. It seems that this is where we are at the present moment in time.

In the past year alone we’ve had mixed feelings over an expensive boardwalk project, large-scale school roof replacement to be funded, another income tax season and a questionable use of public funds to acquire land that appears to serve no other purpose except to “control” the land more to the city government’s liking. It is my personal sense that the intersection of these items along with a generous helping of woes at the state government level and the local economy in general, has created a “perfect storm” for local controversy.

Rather than creating a lengthy post on all of these controversies, I’ve decided to take advantage of Tom’s forum here to comment on one issue that stokes my political passions.

The income tax, at all levels of government, is an insidious form of taxation. It was born out of class warfare more than 100 years ago, and was specifically prohibited by the Constitution that our Founding Fathers created. It required a constitutional amendment amidst dubious political circumstances to pave the way. I would encourage everyone to study the real history behind the income tax because it’s not as simple and benign as our basic historical education leads us to believe. For a real eye-opener, read the first few chapters of “The FairTax” by Neal Boortz.

All of that history aside, the fact is that we do have an income tax today at the federal, state and even the local level here in Portland. At each stage we not only have to pay the tax itself (upfront with no interest through the magic of withholding), but we also have the time and expense required to file the forms at each of these levels. That’s just a tax on the tax itself. The income tax discourages hard work, success, investment and savings. The very things which create more jobs and broaden the overall tax base by growing the economy on which the government can collect more efficient forms of taxation.

It’s bad enough that our federal and state levels have settled on income taxation as a major source of revenue, but as Mr. Jim Andros pointed out in a recent R&O letter, Portland is one of less than two dozen cities in the entire State of Michigan to impose an income tax. It was originally accepted by residents on the premise that it was to be used for a specific purpose (street paving) with the purposeful implication that it would not become a permanent burden. But we’ve seen this before in the likes of the federal excise tax on the “luxury” of telephone service over 100 years ago that was enacted to pay for a specific war. That tax grew well beyond its original purpose as over the years more people had to pay it and it was not repealed until just recently. The war it was to fund has long since been over.
I submit that the time for the Portland City Income Tax also has passed. People are confused and upset by some of the recent actions of our local government, and perhaps it’s time to starve the beast a bit. The government that governs best is that which governs least. Repeal the local income tax and win back a sliver of economic freedom for yourself and force the local government to consider its spending more carefully.

One last plug: I am not against all taxation, just taxation that is inefficient and economically short-sighted. For a valid alternative to the income and payroll taxes at all levels (local, state and federal) visit FairTax.org and do your own homework. Thanks.

-David Brown

Posted in Income Tax | No Comments »

I’d Rather Fight than Switch

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

A disturbing trend I’ve noted is families who are fed up with the city taxes and rules simply moving out of town, if they can manage to sell their house. I was one of the lucky ones when I managed to sell my house about a year and a half ago.

Unlike many, I stayed in the city as I want my young son to be brought up in a neighborhood. I want him to have parks nearby and be able to walk to school or a store, (or even a job a few years from now). I also enjoy having city services such as water, sewer, paved roads and sidewalks.

I don’t mind paying taxes (or anything else) as long as I feel I’m getting value for my money. Higher property taxes and 1% of my income? That’s OK, Just so long as my money is being spent wisely.

This whole thing with the city spending a million dollars of *our* tax money in some sort of land speculation gamble has made me re-think the value we’re getting for our tax money.  Judging by the number of “For Sale” signs I see in people’s yards, many others feel the same way.

Here’s my point: You don’t have to move. You can make positive changes in the community if you just get involved.

I’m not a politically-minded person, but the latest actions by city council got me thinking: someone needs to do something. As I sat in the audience at the last city council meeting and realized I was one of two city residents left in the room not sitting behind a desk, it dawned on me that if anyone was going to try to change things, it was probably going to be me. 

If *you* care at all too, contact Scott Frazee or myself. I can be reached at 517-743-5002 or tmanting at gmail.com. (Replace the word “at” with the “@” symbol and you’ll have an e-mail address.)

Thanks for reading my little rant.

-Tom Manting

Posted in Public Apathy, City Spending, Property Taxes, Income Tax | No Comments »

Land Purchase Questions…Answered?

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Following is an e mail exchange that I had with the Mayor of Portland concerning the purchase of property in Danby Township by the City of Portland. 

Dear Mr. Mayor,

My name is Scott and  I am a resident of the City of Portland.

I have followed with interest thus far the proceedings involving the purchase of land at the corner of Cutler Rd. and Grand River Ave by the City.  If you had asked me what I thought before the purchase was completed I would have asked why we were buying it.  That seems to have been answered with the City’s stating that the Danby Township zoning ordinance would have allowed development that was undesireable to the City.  Did the City ever contact the Township with a request to change the zoning of this property?

Also, was the City Council aware of the possibility of detachment by popular vote before the land was purchased?  Did we buy this property knowing full well that there was even the most remote possibility that it could be taken away by the township?

Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to your correspondence.

Scott
 

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your email and questions.  Without discussing specific cases, I offer the following responses:

Any inquiry or request regarding the way a parcel of land is zoned is bound to spark curiosity on the part of the government entity involved and therefore the general public, including the seller.

Whenever the City embarks on a project, the City Manager who is an attorney and the City Attorney review the project to consider all legal implications.

I hope this information addresses your concerns and thank you again for your email and your questions.

Sincerely,

Jim Barnes

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Discussing the specific case of the land purchase by the city of vacant acreage in Danby Township:

Did we ask for any kind of change in zoning? Did we know about the possibility that the land could be detached by a vote of Danby Township and City of Portland residents?

Thanks,

Scott

Hello Again,       In response to your questions,

No, the city did not ask for a change in zoning.

Yes, detachment is a process the city manager and city attorney are aware of.

Thank you for your interest.

Sincerely,

Jim Barnes

So, if I can make an inference based on the still ambiguous answer to the second question, I would say that the city purchased the land so that they could control the development of the land.  Even though they knew, in advance, that there was the possibility that the land could be detached and restored to Danby Township.  Effectively ending almost all control over the property.  In my opinion this is a gamble that should not have been made with $1,200,000 of our tax money. 

Posted in City Spending | 2 Comments »

New Blog

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Hello,

You’ve found the weblog for Portland Concerned Citizens. This new forum allows anyone to comment on any issue relevant to the site. You must register to post new items. Please let us all know how you feel about Portland, MI city government. Thanks!

Comments