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City taxes from a century ago

(The Fowler Building, formerly located at the southwest corner of Water and Maple street, were once home to city offices.

We, in the United States, like to complain about high cost of government, and high taxes. (It has always been of interest to me that people in other western nations tend to focus their attention on the expected quality of service for the tax they pay. Expectation is what is done with tax dollars better be better and more cost effective than an individual doing the same thing on their own – but that is another story.)

So imagine my interest when I saw, in the September 22, 1922 edition of the Manistee News Advocate, the City of Manistee “Appropriation Ordinance 1922.” It was for a total city budget of $106,800.

In 1922 the budget was for these annual costs:

· Contingent fund $25,950

· Sands Park Fund $450

· Manistee Public and School Library Fund $7,000

· Bridges and Docks Fund $5,250

· Police Department Fund $5,550

· Public Health Fund $1,250

· General Sewer Fund $3,200

· Charles Reitz Park Fund $350

· General Street Fund $30,000

· Fire Department Fund $13,000

· Interest (on bonds) and Sinking Fund $14,800

The “contingent fund” included the operation of city hall, street lights ($12,500), audits, insurance, telephones, and salaries for 6.33 people.

The City Manager, paid $1,998 a year, gets ⅓ of his pay from the Contingent fund, ⅓ from the General Street Fund, and the budget does not show where the last ⅓ comes from.

The General Street fund also includes costs for street cleaning, sanding walks, snow plowing ($1,800), oiling the streets ($2,000) presumably because many streets were gravel. The “big” cost item was for labor and materials to the tune of $15,234.

The Police Department includes salaries for a police Chief ($1,500) and three patrolmen ($1,200 each). And then “extra policemen” to cover vacations and elections.

In the same newspaper there were ads for a new plaid blanket, $2.39; work pants, $1.85-$2.25; dress pants $3-$6; ladies wool dress at $9.75; and a new Overland Sedan automobile $875. It is also the year that Ellis Island closes as an immigration entry point to the US; the Wrigley Building in Chicago is finished; the first Winter Olympics, held in Chamonix, France; and J. Edgar Hoover appointed as the head of the Bureau of Investigation Later called the FBI.

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