Saline's New Normal
So Saline did what it had to do. "We've reduced staffing," says city manager Todd Campbell. "We had sixty-nine full-time employees, and now we have fifty-seven. We've also spread the increased burden of benefits with the employees. And we've frozen wages this year."
Times got tougher in May, when French parts supplier Faurecia bought the Automotive Component Holdings plant, cutting the number of employees from 2,100 to 1,100 and starting wages to $11 an hour. When Visteon/Ford owned it ten years ago, the factory paid $3.4 million a year in taxes. Next year, Faurecia will pay $1.8 million. That alone represents a 3 percent drop in the city's revenue.
And times are likely to get tougher yet: in May the state senate approved eliminating the "personal property" tax, which despite its name is paid solely on business assets. "Twenty-two percent of our income comes from [the] personal property tax," says Campbell, "and that's been what's saved us so far, because businesses have been investing in new equipment. Losing that will really hurt us."
"The senate's talked about replacing it with another source of income," says Driskell. "But that's what was supposed to happen with state revenue sharing, and look at the history." If the personal property tax is eliminated, Driskell warns, "we will have to raise [other property] taxes."