An open letter to Houghton taxpayers

If we are going to get more money, where does it come from? Nobody wants to pay more taxes.

We could borrow it, but we still have to pay it back. Some people say: “just go get a grant.”

We wish we could. We’ve looked. That kind of grant just is not out there.

What about parking fees and tickets? Sure, we charge for parking permits and write a ticket here and there, but that doesn’t generate nearly enough income in a year to pay for that level of work. Most of that money goes to plowing, patrolling, and minor repairs to all of the city’s parking lots and decks.

Earlier I mentioned the taxpayers paid for most of the last round of work on the deck. To clarify, the city had to use General Fund money. Our General Fund gets most of its money from the property taxes we pay. We had to use part of the property taxes you and I pay to cover the cost of that badly needed, and very expensive, repair work on the deck.

If you look at those years when we had to use your tax money; how much was it? Well, I did the math. If you are that Houghton taxpayer who owns a house worth $100,000, you pay about $750 in city property taxes (in addition to what you pay to the county, schools, library, etc.) and about $120 of that went to the deck every year.

What about that $250,000 house? You paid about $1,875 in city taxes and about $300 of it every year went to pay toward the work on the deck.

Somebody who owns a few houses or apartments? Just say they own $1.5 million worth of property, which isn’t a stretch. You paid about $11,250 in city taxes and we had to take $1,800 off the top and put it toward fixing the deck.

We could take it down and put up a new one, right? Yes, but that also takes a lot of money. Up front, it would be a lot more than fixing it. We’re talking numbers approaching $10 million.

Could we get a grant? Maybe, but we’ve been looking for more than a decade for some grant program that would help with a new deck and there’s been nothing we can find to help us with our problem. Even if we eventually find a program, they usually need a match for the grant and that would mean we’d still have to come up with millions of dollars.

We could just take it down, couldn’t we? We could. That would certainly end the taxpayer liability of an aging deck and the cost of fixing it. We would still have a really big parking lot down there, but it’d just be on the ground. That is going to cost a lot of money too, but it would be a one-time thing and less than fixing it year after year in the long run.

What about all those doors that lead on to the deck now? We don’t want to leave those downtown businesses hanging, literally. We’d have to figure out how to make that work for them too.

There’s a lot to say on this subject. There’s a lot to be heard on it too. We need to hear from you; the residents and taxpayers in Houghton. Sometime in the near future we’re going to put out a call for your opinions and ideas. Please take the time to voice your opinion. It’s your money.

Unless we can find someone else willing to pay for it as part of a development, this is going to cost us something. Your elected city officials and employees work hard to be good stewards of your tax dollars.

I dare say the city has done a great job for decades, we have a community we can be proud of, but we’re at a unique moment in time when it comes to the deck. Make your voice heard. Call me. Write an email. Talk to a councilperson or Planning Commissioner.


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