Street repairs using BH city income tax money almost done

Workers from Kalin Construction in Sodus grind the top layer of road off a stretch of La Vette Avenue in Benton Harbor on Sept. 9 – the first day revenue from the Benton Harbor city income tax is being used to fix the city’s roads. The almost $1 million in work is 80 percent complete, according to City Manager Ellis Mitchell.

BENTON HARBOR — About 80 percent of the street repairs in Benton Harbor being paid for with city income tax money are complete, City Manager Ellis Mitchell said Monday.

“We are moving fast towards completion,” he said during the city commission meeting.

He said Kalin Construction of Sodus is now working on the north side of the city.

Commissioner MaryAlice Adams said she is “ecstatically happy” about the streets being repaired.

“I’m grateful. So are the residents,” she said. “They get a chance to actually see their money moving for them as well as those who come into the community and work.”

This is the first time the city income tax money was used to make street repairs. The tax was approved by voters on Nov. 7, 2017, and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Benton Harbor residents are required to pay a 1 percent tax on their income no matter where they earn it, with non-residents who work in the city paying a 0.5 percent tax on the portion of the income they earn in the city.

City commissioners previously approved almost $1 million in repairs using the city income tax money. Work started on Sept. 9. Road repairs will likely be made annually, based on money raised from the tax, though work on sidewalks and alleys is permitted, and the revenue can also be used for emergencies.

After the meeting, Muhammad said he is “absolutely thrilled” that residents are seeing the manifestation of their vote as the two-year anniversary of residents approving the tax approaches.

“That’s monumental and historic in the city of Benton Harbor,” he said. “Oftentimes, in very poor and struggling municipalities, their vote is not as tangible in terms of gains.”

All of the money is being used to repair local streets that are not eligible for state and federal grant money.

Muhammad said one resident told him that she’s lived in the city for 50 years and had never seen any street improvements, but she is pleased that it’s happening now.

He said another resident told him that he didn’t agree with the city income tax initially. 

“But he said now that his street is fixed ... he supports it wholeheartedly,” he said. 

In other news, Muhammad reported during Monday’s meeting that the State Tax Commission certified and returned the 2018 property assessment roll to the city during the commission’s meeting on Oct. 14.

The commission assumed jurisdiction of the tax rolls on Aug. 21, 2018, because they were uncertified. City Tax Assessor Angela Story, who started working for the city in January 2018, said after the meeting that she was unable to certify the tax roll because the previous assessor prepared it.

She said an audit of the roll this past spring showed that she met all of the state requirements, so the roll was returned to the city.

Muhammad said during the meeting that according to a letter from the commission, the total real property value in the city is $135.5 million, which includes $55 million in commercial property, almost $20 million in industrial property and $60 million in residential property.

In addition, the letter stated that there was almost $16 million in personal property in the city.

“Congratulations, Assessor Story, to your hard-working department for helping the city of Benton Harbor restore one of the last state interventions, which is our property,” Muhammad said.

Benton Harbor wasn’t the only municipality that had the 2018 property assessment roll returned. Also returned were the tax rolls for the townships of New Buffalo and Sodus.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege