A Michigan city is pleading with churches, schools and a hospital for donations to help cover its staggering budget deficit.
The mayor of Mount Clemens, Barb Dempsey, sent a letter this week to 35 tax-exempt organizations asking them to voluntarily contribute to the city’s general fund, which pays for services like fire protection, streetlights and roads. Ms. Dempsey said the city has already drastically cut its expenses, having disbanded the police department six years ago, but still faces a $960,000 deficit that is projected to reach $1.5 million next year.
“Those are all services that they utilize at no cost to them,” Ms. Dempsey said. “We figured it can’t hurt to send out letters. If you don’t ask, you never know.”
Mount Clemens, about 25 miles northeast of Detroit, collects no taxes from 42 percent of the property within its borders. The 4.2-square-mile city has about 17,000 residents and is home to 26 churches, a hospital, several schools and the headquarters of Macomb County, the third largest in Michigan. If not exempt, the properties would pay at least $1.2 million, enough to wipe out the deficit, Ms. Dempsey said.
Plunging property values across Michigan have greatly reduced the revenue collected by municipalities, and tax caps hinder governments’ abilities to demand more from businesses and residents. A proposal that would have allowed Mount Clemens to increase its tax rate was defeated this month by a little fewer than 500 votes.
Ms. Dempsey’s unusual request came several days after Hamtramck, a city adjacent to Detroit, asked the state for permission to file for bankruptcy, something no Michigan government had ever done before. The departing governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, said she hoped to find an alternative for Hamtramck, but warned that many communities were nearing insolvency.
Thanks reader Becky for the tip.