Detroit council may use Pistons taxes for neighborhoods

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — City officials may capture millions of dollars in income taxes from Detroit Pistons players and employees and visiting NBA players that would fund neighborhood improvements across Detroit if council approves a newly proposed resolution.

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield introduced the Neighborhood Improvement Fund at Tuesday’s meeting just one week after the City Council signed off on $34.5 million in taxpayer-funded bonds to make modifications to Little Caesars Arena enabling the Pistons to play there this fall.

Sheffield said the fund would focus on blight removal, home repairs for seniors, educational opportunities for young people and affordable housing development in neighborhoods outside of downtown and Midtown.

The resolution stated it was “imperative” for neighborhoods to benefit from the Pistons’ return to Detroit.

City officials estimate $1.3 million will be generated in income tax revenue each year from the salaries of players and employees.

Detroit City Councilmembers, from left: Gabe Leland, James Tate, Mary Sheffield and Scott Benson.

Sheffield said she drafted the proposal in response to residents who complained they were being left out of the city’s progress.

She hosted an emergency community meeting Friday while she weighed changing her “yes” vote on the taxpayer bonds. On Tuesday, she announced she would not reconsider the vote.

“What I did get was a sense of a desire to want to see what is the direct and tangible benefit from the arena being built downtown and Midtown to things happening in the neighborhood,” Sheffield said after Tuesday’s meeting. “People just want to know that they can see something happening in their area.”

Roughly 10 percent of Detroit is not covered by the federal Hardest Hit Fund that has helped with blight removal efforts, Sheffield said. The income tax dollars would be available for use in the Neighborhood Improvement Fund in the next fiscal year. It will be in place until the bonds are paid off in 2048, Sheffield said.

The council is expected to continue discussion on the proposal at its next meeting on July 5.

Councilwoman Brenda Jones said Tuesday she was concerned about the city’s administration awarding contracts with the fund without council approval should the neighborhood plan be implemented.

“We ultimately should have the final decision as to how it’s spent,” Sheffield said.

Councilman Andre Spivey agreed.

“This should be a council-led initiative,” Spivey said.

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