February 26, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
This year Orion Township homeowners will have a new tool to unleash when it comes to appealing their property tax assessment.
About two weeks ago the Oakland County Equalization Department mailed homeowners their property assessments for 2014 after deducting or adding value to their previous assessment in order to "bring each entity to a common level of evaluation," as their website says and is required by state law.
The assessment will give property owners an option to repeal the new rate, and cite three days in March in which a homeowner can present their township board with their appeal. The equalization department took the value of each house as of December 3, 2013 and applied it to this year to determine the new value.
Up until last year an appeal had to be scheduled in person. However, the township board approved a resolution allowing mailed-in appeals.
"If you are on spring break, on vacation with family or out of town on business, you were out of luck," Orion Township Treasurer Mark Thurber said. "Hikes can really go high, and if you're not there to defend yourself you might end up paying an extra $1,000 a year or something like that. So it's really kind of important in that respect," he said.
Thurber worked with the county to set up the mail-in system for Orion residents.
"Other communities do it. It's the right thing to do for our people," Thurber said.
The Board of Review will receive letters of protest regarding residents' tax assessments from the first Tuesday in March until it adjourns from the public hearings set aside for those appeals.
"Last year almost every appointment was full. The year before every appointment was full and if you didn't call early you were out of luck again," Thurber said.
Thurber said taxes have fluctuated a tremendous amount during the recession and this was the first year that they lightened up a little bit.
"This year they are going to increase slightly, so everybody should expect a small bump up. The whole goal of property taxation is not to try to get as much out of the property owners as possible, but to try and make it as fair as possible. It's about making it correct," he said.
The treasurer's department is the first stop residents go to with their tax questions, Thurber said, but reminds residents the township only collects the money to give to the county, and does not set any rates.
Taxes were due on February 15, but by board resolution Orion Township does not charge a penalty up until February 28. By March 1 taxes are sent to the county.
Thurber said to follow the instructions on each individual property assessment, which residents received in the first week of February.