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Lansing voters asked to increase property taxes (again)

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes. There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. 

 In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. 

Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year.

Last night the Lansing city council voted to put a millage increase on the November ballot, with most of the money earmarked for police and fire.

City Councilman Brian Jeffries voted against it.  He says there’s no guarantee that city officials won’t play ‘smoke and mirrors’ with the budget anyway.

“I think it had to be structured differently. Because what I heard was people didn’t trust the administration or council in terms of saying we’ll use it for police and fire.”

Even if the millage passes in November, it would only raise half the money needed to fill Lansing’s budget gap, and further cuts to all parts of city government, including public safety are likely. 

Brian Epling is the city’s firefighters union president.  He says even if it passes, the millage increase would not be enough to prevent cuts in public safety spending.

“We know we’re facing a projection of $12 to 15 million…the millage would potential bring in between $7 and $8 million…we’re still left with a budgetary deficit.”

Firefighters say the cuts they have already absorbed have significantly affected response times in the capital city.    

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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