property taxes

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Voters in Mount Clemens face a difficult choice on Tuesday: Approve a big property tax increase or risk a state takeover of their city.

The recession of 2008 cost Mount Clemens more than a quarter of its property tax revenues.   The city also saw a more than 40% drop in state revenue sharing between 2000 and 2012. 

Robert Bruner is Mount Clemens' interim city manager.   He says the city has only been able to balance its books in recent years by slashing employees and by dipping into the city’s reserves which are now nearly gone. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It's no overstatement to say that property tax revenues are really the lifeblood of local government.

So what do local leaders think about the tax exempt properties within their borders – the ones that take up municipal services, but are exempt from paying taxes? Examples of these properties are religious institutions and schools.

The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan made that the central question of its latest Michigan Public Policy Survey. Program manager Tom Ivacko joined us to discuss the survey.

*Listen to the audio above.

Why Don't We Own This? / Why Don't We Own This?

It's no secret that the city of Detroit and Wayne County have been hit hard by the double whammy of foreclosed and abandoned homes.

For owners of those homes — or those looking to buy as an investment — there's a resource available online: a website called Why Don't We Own This?

We wanted to find out more about the site, and what it means to owners, investors and the neighborhoods.

Listen to the full interview above.

Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy / UM's Ford School of Public Policy

Michigan's cities, towns, and villages are seeing an overall improvement in their ability to meet their financial needs, but hundreds continue to struggle. That's according to an annual report by the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy.

The report finds that smaller municipalities are having a tougher time than those with populations of more than 30,000. And municipalities in central Michigan and the southern lower Peninsula have been particularly hard hit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the city of Flint's budget.

While the emergency manager delivered a balanced budget for next year, the city council was concerned the budget cuts would negatively impact basic city services. 

This morning, MLive and the Flint Journal reported that the emergency manager, Ed Kurtz, wants to raise income taxes in order to stabilize the city's finances.

Official portrait

State House Democrats spent “tax day” pushing a plan to repeal several state tax policies.
 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

“Painful” cuts to Lansing’s city budget are being predicted by the man heading a task force studying the capitol city’s budget problems.

David Hollister leads the mayor’s Financial Health team. He appeared before the Lansing City Council last night to update them on his committee’s work.

Hollister didn’t mince words telling the council that “painful” choices will have to be made to eliminate a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall next year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man leading the ‘vote Yes’ campaign is optimistic Flint voters will approve a big millage increase on Tuesday.

Pastor Timothy Stokes says “at the end of the day, everyone’s concerned about public safety.”

Stokes is the chairman of the ‘Yes to Police and Fire Protection Committee’.  The group has been campaigning for the passage of a six mill property tax increase that’s on Tuesday’s ballot.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor has appointed a committee to take a hard look at the capital city’s financial health.

The committee is made up of some of Lansing’s top business and civic leaders.

Declining property taxes and state revenue sharing dollars combined with rising costs are squeezing Lansing’s finances.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the committee will come up with short-term and long-term proposals for dealing with the city’s financial problems.

Former mayor David Hollister will chair the committee.

http://www.a2gov.org/government/publicservices/Pages/aapac.aspx

A public art tax may be on the ballot in Ann Arbor this November. The millage would replace the city's current system of funding art installations.

Right now the city has something called the "Percent for Art" program. It sets aside one percent of the budget on capital projects for art installations.  But here's the thing: that art has to be directly linked to whatever project funded it. For example, a $750,000 water sculpture in front of city hall, paid for with storm water utilities.

Kate Wells

The Detroit Institute of Arts is going broke. 

Museum staff say to save the DIA, they need some $200 million dollars in property taxes from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

Voters will decide the fate of the museum at the polls this Tuesday. That’s why DIA supporters held a “Save the DIA” rally in Detroit’s New Center Park this week.

Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Volunteers in Kent County are making a last minute push to get out the vote Tuesday. They’ll be knocking on doors and making phone calls running up to Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a county-wide millage increase to renovate outdated buildings at Grand Rapids Community College.

The millage would pay for basic improvements to almost every building on campus.

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia commons

A plan to roll back taxes...that some criticize, but others rely on...is expected to clear a major hurdle this week. A legislative committee is expected to wrap up hearings on the plan, and send it to the floor of the state Senate.

Maufacturers say there would be more hiring and investment in factories if not for Michigan’s unique tax on industrial equipment. The Senate plan would phase out the tax – starting next year -- by 2022.

But the Republican proposal would not replace all the revenue lost to local governments that rely on the tax as a source of funding for services. Communities with a big industrial presence would be hit the hardest.

They say with no guarantee that all the revenue will be replaced, they could be forced to cut services more than they have already, or increase other taxes to make up the difference.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

City residents are questioning how Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero plans to spend money from a recent property tax hike.

The tax hike was approved last year. Many voters expected the money would be spent to hire back dozens of police officers and firefighters laid off in recent years. But Mayor Bernero's plan calls for bringing back just seven public safety officers.

Bernero says he’d like to hire more cops, but the city can’t afford it.

"I’m not going to hire people that I’ve got to turn around and fire tomorrow. I’m not going to do it," says Bernero.

Some Lansing city council members complain the mayor wants to spend money on rehabbing a building for the police department. That's money they say could be spent hiring police officers.

Brian Jeffries is the Lansing City Council president. He wants more money spent on rehiring laid off police officers and firefighters.

"We thought we’d get more police out there.  That’s what we thought.   We thought we’d get more fire personnel out there," says Jeffries, "Basically all we’re being told is this is just going to back stop any future losses.”

The city council has until the middle of May to approve or change the mayor’s budget proposal. The council will hold its own public hearing tonight.

Dave Garvin / Flickr

How to get by with less is an issue all levels of government are facing.

The emergency manager in Pontiac, Michael Stampfler, is proposing a combination of tax hikes and service cuts to cure the city's budgetary ills as reported in the Oakland Press:

Stampfler took to the microphone this morning for an informational meeting about the updated financial plan that could mean property taxes being raised between 6 and 8 mills.

He requested the public and elected officials submit ideas in writing if they have alternatives to what is proposed.

Stampfler released an update of his financial plan, adding $15.05 million to the budget with a combination of cuts and possible tax hikes.

An 8 mill property tax increase would mean that a property owner whose house is assessed at $50,000 would pay $400 more a year in taxes.

This past spring, the assessed value of homes in Pontiac dropped by an average of 21.4 percent, resulting in $2.6 million in lost annual revenues for the city.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The next two or three years “are going to be rough” for local governments in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder told a group of city managers and county executives he’s sensitive to that.

The main cause of budget problems for local governments is a declining tax base. Home values are down and there are fewer businesses since the recession. Townships, cities, and counties get most of their money from property taxes. 

Governor Snyder says he knows the tough times are not over for municipalities.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

County treasurer offices across Michigan this week are processing thousands of homes that have fallen into tax foreclosure. Michigan property owners has until last week to pay up their 2008 property taxes or face losing the property to tax foreclosure. Many counties were expecting about a 10% increase in homes falling into tax foreclosure. 

In Genesee County, the owners of 2,999 properties missed the deadline. About 600 more than last year. Deb Cherry is the Genesee County Treasurer. She was not surprised by the jump in tax foreclosures. 

 “A lot of it has to do with the fact that 2008 was one of the worst years in the housing market.”

Cherry does not expect there will be many buyers when these homes go up for sale later this year.

Many of the properties will find their way to the Genesee County Land Bank, which is already taking care of more than 6,000 properties. Douglas Weiland is the land bank authority executive director.

"Its not a question of whether we can absorb more properties, we will absorb more properties and we expect we'll see that trend continueing for some time yet."

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Property values have plummeted across the region.

That means cities and towns have watched their tax revenue plunge as well. But many homeowners and businesses think their property taxes are still too high.

The result is a double hit.

Local governments are in fiscal crisis, and the tax courts of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are clogged with people who want refunds.

People like Donald Betlem.

Homeowners are starting to get their property tax assessments in the mail. A few organizations are hosting workshops for people who think their home’s value might be over-assessed.

Rose Bogaert is chair of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association:

"Going to the Board of Review and saying 'my taxes are too high' will get you nothing. You have to have information that justifies your contention that your house is over-assessed."

Bogaert says her organization’s workshops educate homeowners about things like how to analyze sales in their neighborhoods. Information about the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A – which govern property tax assessments in Michigan – is also part of the workshops.

Oakland County officials are also hosting a series of sessions about tax assessments through early March.