Increased revenue from licenses, permits, fines and forfeitures hits those with 'the most limited options'
As the city of Flint has fallen upon hard economic times, the increasing cost of its government has fallen upon its residents.
Three of Flint’s biggest sources of revenue have plummeted. From 2006 to 2011, the city’s property tax revenue dropped 29 percent, income tax revenue fell 27 percent and state shared revenue dropped 20 percent. Those three sources of revenue accounted for a combined loss of $19.2 million.
However, thanks in part to $12.2 million in federal help, total revenue to the city went up from $105.5 million in 2006 to $108.9 million in 2011.
The city also increased revenue in those four years by a combined $3.2 million from licenses and permits, fines and forfeitures and charges for services imposed on a population least able to afford it.
Flint’s population dropped 13 percent in four years, going from 117,068 in 2006 to 102,434 by 2010. Those who stuck around found higher unemployment and made less money. The city’s per capita income dropped from $17,695 in 2006 to $4,937 in 2010. By comparison, Ann Arbor’s per-capita income was $26,419 in 2010. And Flint’s unemployment jumped from 14.5 percent in 2006 to 23.2 percent in 2010.
Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he isn’t aware of studies that track how common a practice it is for municipal governments to deal with budget troubles by increasing fees and fines.
LaFaive said Flint’s increases in fees and fines fell on residents with the least opportunity to flee the city.
"Those with the most limited options are hit with higher fees and possibly with a decrease in the services the city was willing to provide," LaFaive said.