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HB 4147 OK'd by House tax committee

March 13, 2013 - On March 13, the House Tax Policy Committee OK'd legislation that would give local townships the authority to decide how to best pay for police and fire protection.

House Bill 4147, sponsored by State Rep. Joseph Graves (R-Argentine) gives township boards flexibility to choose how they would pay for local police and fire services. Under the legislation, townships would have options of determining their assessments on a per-parcel basis, on the taxable value of the land or premises ad valorem, or on another basis determine by the township board.

House Bill 4147 passed unanimously.

"Although we are all part of Michigan, each local community runs slightly differently and this legislation gives each township the ability to choose what works best for them," said Graves. "Lansing politicians don't have all the answers and should not be dictating the decision-making process to local governments. That's why I want to give this decision back to the local townships to choose the way that makes the most sense for them to pay for their police and fire services."

Current law requires townships to only base special assessments for police and fire on the value of a resident's land. HB 4147 now heads to the full House for consideration.

House Bill 4147 has become the focus of Atlas Township residents. In 2006 the township implemented a $50/$25 special assessment to collect for police protection in addition to a 1 mill based on the taxable value of the property. Since that time a local resident has challenged the township special assessment in the Michigan Tax Tribunal Small Claims Division. They judged in the resident's favor from 2006 through 2011.

However, last year both the millage and the special assessment expired, prompting township officials to place on the May 7 ballot 2.1 mills for four years to fund a Genesee County sheriff contract of about $565,000. If approved, a township taxpayer with a $100,000 home would pay about $105 per year.

Several township and Village of Goodrich residents attended and addressed the House Tax Policy Committee.

Richard Saroli told the committee he has opposition to the bill.

"The one-size-fits-all is not the fairest way to collect for the police funding," said Saroli, a village councilman. "When you give the trustees that much power to levy taxes without a vote—what's their motivation to save money? It's massive open-ended power. Residents should have the ability to control their own destiny by voting."

Saroli suggest dipping into a township fund balance.

"There's a large amount of money in the township coffers—it's taxpayer dollars. Use that money to help fund the police. People are on a budget in this community and many are strapped for cash."

If HB 4147 passes the House the legislation will then move on to the Senate for consideration.

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