For This City’s Politicians, Keeping A Lid On Spending Called ‘Trying Times’

Their easy way out is to put city income tax on the Nov. 7 ballot

The Lansing State Journal’s editorial board thinks that East Lansing voters should approve a city income tax proposal that local politicians have placed on their Nov. 7 ballot.

In its editorial, the newspaper says: “In trying financial times, it is ludicrous not to consider every tool in the arsenal for addressing city debts. And for a city looking at $200 million in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, this is a sensible way to chip away at it.”

ForTheRecord says: “In trying times?” City finances are complex but the actual numbers are not secret. Specifically, East Lansing’s annual budgets from 2013 through 2016 provide all the information that residents (and newspaper readers) need to make up their own mind about the city’s finances.

The city of East Lansing’s total revenue from all sources has increased from $45.09 million in 2013 to $46.87 million in 2016. When adjusted for inflation, the $45.09 million the city collected in 2013 would have had to grow to $46.54 million in 2016 dollars. That means the city’s real income has increased slightly faster than inflation.

It’s a different story on the spending side, though. During the same three-year period, members of the city council have increased city spending from $42.78 million to $48.85 million. That’s a $6.07 million increase before inflation.

East Lansing politicians look to be having trying times when it comes to keeping a lid on city spending.