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Police assessment draws ire, praise

July 28, 2010 - Atlas Township-By a 4-1 vote on Monday night the township board approved a special assessment of $50 for improved parcels, and $25 for unimproved parcels, to partially fund law enforcement for the community.

The public hearing comes after a 4-1 vote last month to establish a special assessment district. The purpose of Monday's meeting, which attracted about 30 residents, was to arrive at a value of the special assessment. The amount is the same as township officials approved in 2005 which garners about $163,000.

The special assessment is needed to help fund a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff's Department established about 15 years ago and funded by 1 mill from area property owners, netting about $330,000 per year. The millage was renewed by voters in 2008.

However, following the expiration of the special assessment this past January, coupled with a decline in property values which dropped the police revenue to $296,000, the township coffers now lack about $100,000 to cover the police contract this year. In addition, the cost of police coverage has increased each year and is now more than $550,000.

Township Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones voted no and advocates voting on the special assessment.

The board had discussed elimination of the special assessment in lieu of an increase in police millage. However, the concept was dashed after it was determined by Carrie Bock, township assessor, that values of area homes are expected to decline over the next year.

"Home values are going down," said Bock. "Our taxable values will also be going down next year. The millage rate will produce less money next year. The rate would have to be open to change when the values went down."

Barry June, township trustee, motioned to keep the current speical assessment in place until the presidential election in 2012.

"We'll formulate a plan in 2012 to address the police funding," he said.

About 30 township residents attended the public hearing to speak out on the issue.

Area resident Paulette Johnson was not in favor of the special assessment.

"We all should be able to vote (on the assessment)," she said. We need to choose the way taxes are levied. It's important we're given the opportunity to vote."

Former Township Supervisor Richard Pifer agreed.

"I'm against putting this tax assessment on the tax roll," he said. "This (assessment) was instituted without a vote of the people."

Goodrich resident and Village Councilmember Patricia Wartella did not agree.

"I'm for the special assessment," she said. "The value of a home should not matter (with regard to police protection). A special assessment makes it fair and equal—I hope it continues."

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