PONTIAC (MCT) — As the mayor of Pontiac, Bob Russell is accustomed to hearing complaints. The one he hears most often is usually related to high property taxes.
“For 20 years, I have been trying to get property taxes lowered in Pontiac because it is so damaging to businesses and our residents,” Russell said.
Because of requirements in the law imposing tax caps in Livingston County, city leaders cannot cut property taxes, but a half-percent increase in the citywide sales tax is on the Nov. 6 ballot. If passed, the city is pledging to rebate at least $500,000 to residential and commercial property owners.
Russell said the proposed increase would bring in an estimated $900,000. The tax does not apply to groceries, medicines or vehicles. The current sales tax rate is 6.25 percent.
“Even with the increase, we would still be among the lowest around,” Russell said.
Russell said the city should take advantage of its growing tourism industry.
“We are spreading the tax burden out,” he said. “We have had visitors from 85 different countries and so we feel like this is a way to help our own residents.”
Russell said property owners would also have the option to give back to the city. A local group, Pontiac Organizing Outdoor Leisurely Swimming, is hoping to bring an outdoor facility to Pontiac, and property residents have the option to donate their rebate – or a portion of it - to a special fund the city would establish.
“It’s good news because the city is taking notice of how large our organization has become,” POOLS spokesman Andy Ferguson said. “We are opening eyes and turning some heads and so it is a step in the right direction.”
“In a way, it’s a little bit like a pool referendum,” Russell said. “It gives the property owner the option to help fund the pool because the local group is working very hard on getting that accomplished.”
The rebate for property owners will be based on percentages, Russell said. The city will take its total assessment of property taxes and then whatever percentage is represented by each property, will be equal to the percentage of rebate the owner receives.