Source: Sherman Publications

Twp. voters OK police millage

by David Fleet

May 08, 2013

Atlas Twp.-On Tuesday, area voters approved 2.1 mills to fund police coverage for the community.

The final tally was 576 yes to 382 no.

About 16 percent of township voters turned out, less than anticipated, said Tere Onica, township clerk.

“I’m not surprised at the support for the millage,” she said. “In my years here I’ve never seen township voters turn down funding for police or fire. They have very strong support here in the community.”

The four year millage will fund a $565,000 contract, currently with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department which expires Dec. 31. A township taxpayer with a $100,000 home would pay about $105 per year. The approved millage replaces the 1 mill levy along with $50 for improved lots and $25 for unimproved lots that expired last year.

The two-year contract signed in 2011 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.

The township established a contract with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department about 13 years ago, funded by 1 mill from area property owners. Since 2007 the cost for police protection has risen from $432,205 to $565,653 in 2012, about a 24 percent increase.

The approval of the millage also spells the death knell, at least for now, of the special assessment for police coverage. In comparison, the township now uses ad valorem, Latin for “according to value,” a tax based on the value of real estate or personal property. In the case of a muncipality, a millage rate is used to base the amount residents pay for police or fire on the value of their home. For example, a home valued at $100,000 with a state equalized value taxed at 1 mill would pay $50. A $200,000 home would pay $100.

Since 2006, when the $50/$25 special assessment was first implemented, resident Jim Ellis has challenged the township in Michigan Tax Tribunal Small Claims Division. They judged in his favor in 2006 through 2011.

“Our township board is not representing the constituency,” said Ellis. “With the exception of (Township) Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones as far as police funding. This general millage election allowed the people to voice their thoughts—the special assessment allowed for the township trustees to decide, not the voters. We now have a fair millage for police protection. The special assessment based on per parcel, over taxed the lower value homes and undertaxed the higher value homes compared to the millage.”

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 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. HB 4147 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Onica sees changes statewide on the horizon.

“I’m fine with the 2.1 mills for the police protection,” she said. “However, it’s not the best methodology for all comumunities. I would have liked to have waited until August to see if House Bill 4147 passed. It passed the house and I’m sure it will get past the senate. Local control of taxes should remain with the community. The 113 communities that statewide have selected one of three methods of (tax) collection should not suffer.”