Ann Arbor City Council work session (Aug. 13, 2009): Towards the end of the city council’s Thursday evening work session on a possible city income tax, city administrator Roger Fraser asked the council for some direction. Here’s what he wanted to know: Should city staff place an item on the council’s Aug. 17 agenda that would allow the council to put the tax before the voters in November?
In response to Fraser, Marcia Higgins (Ward 4) said she wanted more dialogue on the exact percentage of the tax to be levied, even if the ballot language specified “up to 1%.” Carsten Hohnke (Ward 5) followed by saying it was clear that his colleague, Sandi Smith (Ward 1) had requested additional case-study scenarios for individuals and that he himself had wanted some cross-checking of commuter numbers with the city’s transportation staff. “We don’t do the community any favors by taking the conversation to the next level without more information,” Hohnke said. Sabra Briere (Ward 1) then advised that she thought an emotional reaction could be addressed, if people first became more knowledgeable – she herself had had problems correctly interpreting the charts in the city income tax study.
Finally, Tony Derezinski (Ward 2) declared, “Let’s cut to the chase. I think there’s a consensus we should not have it before us on Monday.” And no one disagreed with him.
Barring surprise, then, the Aug. 17 council meeting will end without the council authorizing the placement of a city income tax on the November ballot. That will be the last opportunity council has to make such a decision. It’s therefore almost certain that the ballot in November will not include a question on a city income tax for Ann Arbor. Based on council discussion during the work session, a city income tax will, however, eventually be given serious consideration as a May 2010 ballot issue.
In light of the prospect of a May 2010 ballot question, it’s worth noting the kinds of issues councilmembers raised with Fraser and the city’s CFO, Tom Crawford. We’ve also folded into this report an account of a recent meeting sponsored by the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce about the proposed tax.