East Lansing Cries Poverty in Newsletter, But Fails to Mention Revenue Is Up

Readers of woeful report will be surprised city is taking in more, not less

The city of East Lansing paints a bleak picture of its finances in a recent newsletter sent to residents.

The March newsletter reports that officials are discussing the possibility of a city income tax, and says that revenues, including tax collections, haven’t kept up with the all the functions the city has taken on. To support this claim, the newsletter cites a consultant who says state policies have “forced communities into fiscal crisis.”

The publication suggests that constitutional limits on increases in property tax assessments mean the city can’t support a high level of government services: “East Lansing’s below-average taxable value per capita, coupled with slow-to-recover housing market, Headlee restrictions, revenue sharing cuts and rising legacy and infrastructure costs have created significant challenges that cannot be fixed with budget cuts alone.”

ForTheRecord says: After reading all the doom and gloom, East Lansing’s residents may be surprised to learn their city’s tax and revenue collections have been increasing, not declining.

According to the city’s audited reports, East Lansing’s general fund revenue grew from $33.0 million in 2013 to $33.5 million in 2016. Total funding for all its municipal functions rose from $45.1 million to $46.9 million over those three years.