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Wyoming voters looking at 2 proposals to help increase public safety

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Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-01 09:23:24-04

WYOMING, Mich. — In a few days, many West Michiganders are heading to the polls.

It might not be a presidential race, but a lot of important issues that impact your life every day will be decided.

Voters in Wyoming are going to look at a new income tax.

The city says they'll be able to add a significant number of public safety professionals.

Officials say they'll add 27 full-time firefighters and more than a dozen patrol officers.

Wyoming is also looking for voters' approval to slash property taxes to relieve some financial burden.

"They take about 18 calls a day, our firefighters do," Wyoming Director of Public Safety Kimberly Koster told FOX 17.

The kitchen inside Wyoming Fire Station #1 sits mostly unused because people are only there when called in.

"We would really like to be able to staff this fire station 24 hours for our north end of the city where our homes are, you know, kind of close together," Koster said.

That's not the only one like that. Station #2 on Division sits in the dark. Wyoming wants to have a full-time staff at both locations.

"We want to reduce the response time. If somebody on the north end of Wyoming is close to the station [and] has a medical emergency, oftentimes, the response unit is going to have to come from our central station on 36th Street, or maybe even on the south end of the city, if they are on a call out there," Koster added.

The plan to get there is with a new income tax. It would be the third city in Kent County to have one.

"When we look at tax participation, between property tax and income tax, we want to level the playing field a bit," Wyoming Council Member At Large John Fitzgerald said.

The city is asking voters to approve up to a 1% income tax for residents and businesses and up to 0.5% For non-residents.

To relieve some financial stress, the city is also proposing to cut the property tax mill from 11.8 down to 5 mills.

RELATED: Kalamazoo County to vote on law enforcement, public safety millage in Tuesday's special election

"Now with the income tax, say if you've lost your job or your income significantly decreased: you would be expected to pay less in your total tax burden," Fitzgerald said.

The city says this is going to generate $6 million every year. About $600,000 would go directly to the parks department for capital investments.

Still, public safety is a top priority for the city. They plan on using the rest to hire 13 patrol officers and one community service officer.

"Our officers simply don't have time to do those self-initiated traffic stops at this point because they're going call to call to call. So we do need to increase the amount of patrol officers that we have on the street," Koster said.

Not everyone is on board with this decision of this income tax. The Grand Rapids Chamber sent a letter back in 2021, showing concern, which reads in part:

"Employers are already struggling to fill jobs facing a talent crisis and are afraid this will make Wyoming less competitive for employment opportunities."

You can read more here.

"The city of Wyoming is going to remain a destination for employers. We look at neighboring communities like Walker and Grand Rapids, who have income taxes. And we don't see that there is a significant decrease in businesses who are attracted to those communities," Fitzgerald said.

The city has set these two votes as one that goes hand in hand. Voters must approve the new income tax to get the slash in property taxes.

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