By Caitlin DeLuca
The Williamston Post
The Williamston City Council voted on Monday night to compare prices for an income tax feasibility study.
The city would have an outside company look at what type of revenue an income tax would bring in if they decide the price is worth it.
The reason for an outside company to come in and do this is so the citizens know that the research is unbiased.
“It’s an independent third party that will be taking a look at it and professionally analyzing the demographics of the community, and that’s important for voters to know we’ve done our research,” said Williamston Treasurer Rachel Piner.
The idea for the study came about in the Road Committee, which has been looking to implement an income tax to fix the roads and the pipes underneath.
The roads have been a major issue in Williamston, with major potholes and just the road in general needing to be relaid.
Water quality and pressure also have been an issue due to the pipes in some places being up to 89 years old.
While citizens mostly notice the roads as an issue, most don’t realize what bad shape their pipes are in.
“Everybody sees the roads and they say, ‘Well, fix the roads.’ What they don’t understand is that there’s water lines and sewage lines underneath those roads that date back to the 1920s and 1930s that need to be replaced,” said City Manager Alan Dolley.
The possible income tax seems to be the best way to pay for the infrastructure, Dolley said, and the tax wouldn’t be just for residents. It would be for everyone who uses the roads.
“If you live outside of the city and you come into the city to work, you pay a half of a percent of your income. If you live in the city and work in the city you would pay one percent,” said Dolley.
Though there is no budget set at the moment as they are just shopping around, the study could be expensive.
“We’ve been told from similar studies that were done in other communities cost anywhere from $5,000 to $18,000,” said Piner.
If the price of the study is too expensive, the city of Williamston could compare themselves to Portland Michigan’s study as their demographics are virtually the same.
“We can use the city of Portland because they’re very close to us in terms of number of houses, number of residents, taxable values, everything is really, really close and we know what they’re bringing in for an income tax,” said Dolley.
Dolley thinks the citizens may not react as well to just hearing it from the City Council compared to having an outside firm work on a study in Williamston.
“Are they more likely to listen to me when I say, ‘Well, we compared ourselves to this other community,’ or this outside firm that can come in and give us their opinions on what it is.”
The citizens of Williamston shouldn’t be too shocked by the idea of an income tax, as the idea was raised last year.
“We did a community survey a little over a year ago that kind of touched on some of this stuff, and there was a positive response on the idea of an income tax and there was a positive response to a road millage,” said Mayor Pro-Tem James DeForest.
City Councilman Kent Hall said finding funding is necessary as the city does not have enough money to do what it needs to do on its own.
“If we don’t do something, we’re going backwards now. We don’t have enough money to do all we need to do,” Hall said.