East Lansing’s Precinct 7 voted against the city’s November income tax proposal, and favored the property tax reduction proposal by twice as many votes. The precinct covers the Whitehills neighborhood, which has the highest average property value in East Lansing.
According to election results from the Ingham County Clerk’s Office, out of 675 votes in the 413 voted against instituting the income tax. That’s a 151-vote difference, larger than any other precinct in East Lansing.
Janet Fowler, precinct seven chairwoman, said she was surprised when the precinct had more than 240 votes by 1 p.m.
“We might have 12-15 percent of people come in an off-year election,” said Fowler. “We’ve had that already in the first five hours.”
If the income tax proposal had succeeded, a 1 percent income tax would have been added to every city resident who earned more than $5,000 a year. According to Data USA, in 2015 the average annual income for a Whitehills resident was $58,000, costing. A person with that income level have had to pay an average of $580 a year in local income taxes.
Whitehills voter Susan Ahrens, said the income tax’s effect would have been minimal. She said she went into the voting booth with the community in mind, thinking the income tax would help build and restructure the city.
Instead of voting for the income tax, which would have been required to allow for the property tax reduction to pass, Precinct 7 voted only for the reduction. According to the East Lansing City Assessor’s Office, Whitehills homes have an average residential taxable value of $134,000, the highest in East Lansing.
If the property tax reduction proposal had passed, the current $1,176.52 that the average Whitehills property owner would pay in property taxes would have dropped to $871, saving $305.52 a year.
Voter Dave Regalbuto said his home’s value was below the Whitehills average. “Even if our home was worth two or three times as much, I really wouldn’t care if my property tax went down 5 percent. To me that’s greedy.”
Regalbuto said that what really mattered to him was to help secure the pensions for firefighters and police officers, and the income tax was a way to do that.
The election results tell City Council what the community is thinking, and it’s apparent that it’s not thinking of increasing taxes, but reducing them.
Mayor Mark Meadows said city officials wanted people to be able to vote for both, even though the property tax reduction was dependent on passage of the income tax.
“If some future City Council put on the ballot an income tax and it was passed by the people, property taxes would automatically be brought down,” said Meadows.
Other issues on the ballot included two City Council seats, which were won by Ruth Beier and Aaron Stephens. Incumbent Susan Woods did not win a second term.
However, Precinct 7 actually voted in favor of Beier and Woods.