A Taxing Ordeal

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Getting to the root of East Lansing’s new citywide levy

So, you all got the email from the government stating that taxes are no longer a thing, right? They’re ending it? Yeah, me neither. What we did get was an email from the city of East Lansing informing the residents and employees/employers that a new city tax law has been passed. The email stated that East Lansing voters passed a law, informed us of when the law will go into effect and told us what needed to be done by a certain date with W-4 local tax forms. 

Now, the email did include a very small “tax information” section, which just referred back to everything that was stated earlier in the message. Not one part of the email informed us, the residents and nonresidents working in the city, what the tax was being used for. Many of the residents of East Lansing just attend school here, and therefore wouldn’t be aware of this law because this isn’t their hometown. The same goes for employees who work in East Lansing. East Lansing voters, however, may have known what the email referred to immediately. 

There is a link provided in the email that will give more detailed information about the new tax. After following the link, doing further research and talking to some employers’ accountants, who all had to attend a meeting to be enlightened, the new city tax is more understandable. The email informs us that the new city tax rate is 1 percent for residents and 0.5 percent for nonresidents. What it doesn’t mention is that the tax will end after 12 years.

The money will fund the East Lansing Police and Fire Department protection and pension liabilities. Twenty percent will fund the Police Department, 20 percent will go to the Fire Department and 60 percent will be directed toward unfunded pension liabilities. 

Unfortunately, the city of East Lansing is having a financial crisis and has had to make necessary cuts and take necessary actions, which is just a long way of saying they’re in debt like the rest of us. Now, we the people of East Lansing are paying for it. No, the tax isn’t a lot, but the least they could have done is to make clear what was happening to people’s paychecks. 

Yes, our police officers and firefighters need protection. Yes, retired people deserve to have pensions – it’s what they worked for – but who’s to say that we all can afford this tax? A lot of East Lansing’s population is in school, which already costs a lot. A lot of East Lansing residents have children, which costs even more. A lot of people are already in debt, and no one is trying to add an extra tax for them. Anybody who is employed in East Lansing pays a federal and city tax on top of other taxes depending on their status, such as being a homeowner. Why isn’t the money we all pay in the city tax enough? Where are the city tax funds going? 

We should know more if we’re being told that they’re taking more money. Now that you’re informed, how do you feel about it?