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Atlas Township voters to decide on police millage Tuesday

by David Fleet

May 01, 2013

Atlas Twp.-On May 7, township and Goodrich Village voters will go to the polls to decide on 2.1 mills to fund police coverage for the community. The millage will cover four years of a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff of about $565,000 per year. If approved, a township taxpayer with a $100,000 home would pay about $105 per year.

"It's in the best interest of the community to vote on May 7," said Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor. "The contract with the county will expire on Dec. 31, 2013."

The millage is needed after a $50 per occupied dwelling and $25 per vacant lot special assessment for police coverage established in 2006 expired last year. In addition, 1 mill based on the taxable value of property also expired in 2012. One mill had generated about $262,000 and the special assessment collected about $165,000 per year. If approved, the new police millage will gather about $565,000. Until the millage takes effect, funding for the sheriff's contract is covered by the township's general fund.

The contract with the sheriff includes four deputies, along with funding for a part-time detective-sergeant, split between Fenton and the township. The residents of Vienna Township, who also have a contract with the sheriff's office for police coverage, are currently charged for the service.

Utilizing the special assessment to collect funding for police coverage was challenged by a local resident in the Michigan Tax Tribunal Small Claims Division. The tribunal judged in the resident's favor from 2006 through 2011. subsequently introduced by an area lawmaker.

HB 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 determined by the township board. Current law requires townships to only base special assessments for police and fire on the value of a resident's land.

On March 13, the House Tax Policy Committee OK'd HB 4147 after several township residents, along with township officials, testified regarding the bill. The House passed the bill by a vote of 57-50.

"House bill 4147 was passed by the State House on April 18 and is now awaiting further action by the State Senate," said Graves. "This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. I have requested from the chairman of this committee to hold a hearing on this bill as quickly as possible so that this local control can be returned to townships across our state."

A proposal to challenge the use of special assessment for police protection was