DAVID STOKER of the Lansing-based law firm Cohl, Stoker & Toskey was invited to speak at Wednesday’s Shiawassee County Advisory Tax Limitation Committee meeting to better educate the committee on Michigan’s property tax laws as the six-member committee worked to come to an agreement on a County Operating Millage. Stoker sat for the entire two-hour meeting and answered questions from every committee member and citizens alike. (Independent Photo/GRAHAM STURGEON)
The Shiawassee County Advisory Tax Limitation Committee voted unanimously during its Wednesday,
Jan. 20 meeting to recommend to the county’s Board of Commissioners (BOC) a County Operating Millage of 6.8 mills to be levied beginning in 2017, which is the same county tax limitation that was approved in 1996.
The BOC will decide when the millage question will be placed on an election ballot, but the board has no authority to change the language or withhold the question from a countywide vote.
The committee also decided on an indefinite duration period for the millage, meaning that the rate will stay the same until a vote by county residents changes it. A vote could be initiated by the BOC or by county voters.
While the renewal means that the County Operating Millage would remain at 6.8 mills, it also means that tax rates would be reset to 1996 levels, before Headlee rollbacks began taking a bite out of county revenues. The Headlee amendment of 1978 decreases the rate of taxes collected as county property values rise. The county has been collecting only 5.1146 mills of its 5.555 millage rate for over a decade as a result of rising property values in the early part of the century. That amounts to a $750,000 annual revenue loss for the county, according to Chairman John Plowman.
The committee also decided Wednesday not to change the allocation of the 6.8 mills, which are currently set at 5.555 for the county, .245 of a mill for the RESD and 1.0 mill for townships.
If approved by voters, resetting the County Operating Millage would mean a slight increase in taxes for residents. Chairman Plowman broke the increase down for those in attendance, saying that a person with a home valued at $50,000 would pay approximately $20 more per year in taxes as a result of the renewal.
The committee could have recommended a County Operating Millage of up to 9.8 mills, and it could have gone as low as 4.10 mills. Committee member and Sciota Township Supervisor Phil Matthews suggested raising the millage slightly to lessen the effects of future Headlee rollbacks, but committee member Bruce Cook reminded everyone that the recommendation needed to be one that county voters would approve. The committee agreed that voters would be less likely to approve a tax increase, but that a renewal would still leave the county with enough revenue to operate as it is.
BOC Commissioner Hartmann Aue reminded the committee that the county has operated with a 6.8 County Operating Millage since at least 1971.
If voters do not approve the County Operating Millage, the current 6.8 mills would then be divided by a Tax Allocation Board in 2017 and beyond, without voter approval.