Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

Grand Rapids voters extend income tax for streets

May 7, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Are we on a highway to gravel?
Michigan ranks last in state per-capita spending on roads and bridges, based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, according to the Michigan Infrastructure Transportation Association. Photo via fb.com

More than two-thirds of Grand Rapids residents who voted in the special election yesterday were in favor of continuing a city income tax increase for 15 years, to be used for street and sidewalk reconstruction and repair.

Grand Rapids residents also voted to approve a change to the city charter that no longer requires property owners to be financially responsible for repair and reconstruction of city sidewalks abutting their property, with almost 72 percent voting in favor of that measure.

The City Clerk’s office said the turnout was estimated at 13.7 percent of registered voters.

“Thank you to the many supporters of this plan and for the overwhelming support shown by the community,” Mayor George Heartwell said. “This important outcome is due to the diligent work and recommendations provided to us by the Sustainable Streets Task Force. Work can now begin on bringing their vision for vital streets and sidewalks to reality.”

A City Hall statement this morning states that reconstruction of some badly damaged streets will begin in 2015, and planning is underway of projects that will make a “significant difference” in the condition of Grand Rapids streets.

The voters approved extension of the current city income tax rate of 1.5 percent on corporations and residents to 2030, along with the current rate of 0.75 percent on non-residents who work in the city.

The income tax rates are normally 1.3 percent on corporations and residents and 0.65 percent on non-residents, but were increased to the current levels by voters in 2010.

The temporary increase would have expired next year. Heartwell said that’s why dedicated funding for the voter-approved street reconstruction program will not be available until 2015.

The city now intends to restore the city street system, including sidewalks and right-of-ways, so 70 percent of it is in “good” condition within 15 years. The streets currently have a rating of 60 percent in “poor” condition.

Property owners’ financial responsibility for repair of sidewalks abutting their property has been eliminated, effective May 7.

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