Street Talk: Wyoming puts parks, public safety on the ballot

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The Wyoming City Council recently took action to place two proposals on the May 2022 ballot that, if approved, would provide future funding to support public safety and parks needs, make the city more financially sustainable and minimize the overall tax burden of residents.

The first ballot proposal would allow the city to levy an income tax on residents, businesses and non-residents who work in Wyoming. The second ballot proposal would decrease the city’s property tax millage by more than half.

If approved, the proposals would generate an additional $6 million in revenue each year, supporting significant investment to improve public safety and parks infrastructure for residents, businesses and visitors. Both proposals need to pass for either to go into effect.

“These proposals support the city of Wyoming’s commitment to community, safety and stewardship,” Mayor Jack Poll said. “Our current revenues are not able to support the community’s public safety and parks needs. Public Safety has seen an increase in the frequency and complexity of calls for service and resident surveys have clearly illustrated a need for additional, proactive traffic enforcement and community policing in our city. City parks built 25 or more years ago are now in need of capital investment to continue to meet the community’s needs.

“After carefully reviewing our options, the City Council has agreed that an income tax is the most equitable way to fund these needs and ensure a sustainable economic future for Wyoming.”

The funding generated by the income tax would allow the Wyoming Department of Public Safety to add 27 firefighters and 14 police positions, significantly improving public safety by decreasing response times, enhancing crime prevention efforts and adding more proactive traffic enforcement. The funding also would provide $600,000 in sustainable annual capital investment in the city’s parks system. The current parks millage does not have capacity to provide any funding for capital investment.

If approved by voters, the income tax – for residents, businesses, and non-residents working in Wyoming – would go into effect starting January 2023. State law allows the city to levy an income tax of up to 1% for residents and businesses and up to 0.5% for non-residents.

The city estimates it needs to levy 0.8% from residents and businesses and 0.4% from non-residents who work in Wyoming to generate enough revenue to support these needs. A $2,000 deduction will be applied for each member of the household. Retirement benefits, annuities, pensions, military pay, unemployment benefits, welfare relief, tax refunds and other similar types of income would be exempt from the tax.

Property owners would see a decrease of 4.3497 mills in summer 2022 and an additional decrease of 2.5450 mills in summer 2023. This reduction in property taxes would offset, at least in part for many residents, the impact of the income tax.

If the ballot measures pass, Wyoming would join Grand Rapids, Walker, Muskegon and 21 other Michigan cities that levy an income tax.

More hope

Hire for Hope is making the YWCA West Central Michigan the exclusive beneficiary of its philanthropy.

A recruiting firm on a mission, Hire for Hope was founded in 2017 after its founder, Ashley Ward, escaped a domestically abusive relationship. She started the company out of a dream to make a difference and give other women the chance to escape abuse and get back on their feet. Hire for Hope gives 10% of its profits to organizations that serve women who have been abused.

Last year brought a time of reflection and change to many organizations — Hire for Hope included. During the pandemic, domestic abuse increased by at least 50%, especially to those in marginalized communities, the firm said. Hire for Hope felt it was increasingly important to make its donations count, and it set out to find an organization to partner with that aligned perfectly with the work that needed to be done.

Eventually, the team zeroed in on the YWCA West Central Michigan, which works to empower women who are experiencing domestic violence and to eliminate racism. Its mission aligned with the change Hire for Hope wanted to see in the world, so a partnership was born.

To kick off the collaboration, Ward visited the YWCA offices on Sept. 1 with employees Asad Khaja and Tasia Allison to present a donation of $6,800 from its 2020 profits to YWCA West Central Michigan CEO Charisse Mitchell. Hire for Hope is on track to triple that donation amount by the end of 2021.

“The YWCA has a very special place in my heart,” Ward said. “They were the agency that provided me the funding for an apartment and advocated to help me transition out of my abusive relationship and into permanent housing. I will forever be grateful to them for their impact on my life and am thrilled that Hire for Hope can contribute to the life-changing work the YWCA is doing.”

Hire for Hope will partner exclusively with the YWCA moving forward with its giving and volunteering efforts, Ward said.

Picture of health

Is 60 the new 40? In terms of celebrating fitness, it might be.

West Michigan residents in their 60s have been chosen to be featured as “pinups” on an exclusive 2022 calendar that highlights events and activities around West Michigan and serves as a roadmap to good health.

A panel of celebrity judges from West Michigan selected the 60 Strong Ambassadors because they have achieved remarkable levels of fitness, overcome major health issues, served as leaders in their community, or dedicated their lives to helping others.

The winners were: Celeste Davis, Lee Elston, Rudy Escobar, Shelley Irwin, Kathy Jackson, Ron Jolly, Don Kern, Lloyd Kilgore, Chris Lane, Tammy Martin, Anne Stanton and Joni Vander-Till

The calendar will be available for purchase online at www.WestMI60Strong.com beginning this month. The cost is $15 for each calendar and all proceeds will benefit Senior Neighbors.

The program is sponsored by Answer Health in conjunction with the launch of Answer Health Senior Care Advantage, a new program designed to keep seniors active and help them navigate the complexities of Medicare coverage and other health care decisions.

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