Stories indexed with the term ‘personal property tax’

Hearing Set for Liquor License Non-Renewal

A hearing on a recommendation for non-renewal of its liquor license has been set for one Ann Arbor establishment – Banfield’s Bar & Grill. The date of the hearing was set for Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. in action taken by the Ann Arbor city council on Feb. 3, 2014.

Two other establishments – The Arena and Café Zola – had originally been on the list but had been removed by the time of the council meeting because they’d resolved their outstanding issues. They had all been on the list for potentially being recommended for non-renewal due to non-payment of personal property taxes.

The council’s Feb. 3 action also appointed Jane Lumm (Ward 2) as the hearing officer. Lumm serves on the council’s … [Full Story]

AADL Gets Input on Downtown Library

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Nov. 19, 2012): Though turnout didn’t match the attendance at a typical Ann Arbor city council meetings, several members of the public came to the AADL board meeting on Monday evening. It was the first board meeting since the Nov. 6 general election, when voters rejected a $65 million bond proposal that would have funded a new downtown library.

Ingrid Sheldon, Ann Arbor District Library, The Ann Arbor Chronicle

Ingrid Sheldon, a member of the Our New Downtown Library campaign committee, reviews her notes before speaking during public commentary at the Nov. 19 meeting of the Ann Arbor District Library board. (Photos by the writer.)

Two people spoke during public commentary, directly addressing the issue of the downtown building at 343 S. Fifth Ave. Ingrid Sheldon – representing the Our New Downtown Library committee, which had campaigned in support of the bond proposal – told the board that committee members were disappointed but willing to continue supporting the library however they can. Other committee members in attendance included Betsy Jackson and Donald Harrison.

Also addressing the board was Lyn Davidge, who had run for a seat on the library board but had not been elected. During her campaign she had advocated for renovation of the downtown building, not new construction. She volunteered to serve on any citizen advisory group that she hoped the board would form soon, to give input on the building’s future. Davidge also urged the board to add a public commentary slot at the end of their monthly meetings – because she felt it would encourage more participation.

There was scant discussion among board members about the Nov. 6 outcome or next steps for dealing with the downtown building. In a brief report to the board, Prue Rosenthal – chair of the board’s special facilities committee – indicated that the committee members hadn’t yet made any decisions or had any substantive discussions about what to do next. There was no discussion about the possibility of forming an advisory committee.

In other action, the Nov. 19 meeting included an audit report by the accounting firm Rehmann for AADL’s 2011-2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30. The audit was clean, and included a recommendation to start conducting periodic inventories of “moveable capital assets” – items like furniture and fixtures.

During her director’s report, Josie Parker highlighted a financial concern that is outside of AADL’s control: The possible elimination of the state’s personal property tax. PPT legislation will likely be handled in the state legislature’s lame duck session. If the PPT is eliminated and no replacement revenue is provided, the library would lose about $630,000 annually in revenues, Parker said. The library’s annual budget is roughly $12 million.

Parker also related positive news. Again this year, AADL has been ranked with five stars by the Library Journal – the highest ranking awarded by the journal for library use in a community. AADL is the only library system in Michigan that achieved that level. In its category – libraries with budgets between $10 million to $29.99 million – AADL ranked fourth nationwide.  [Full Story]

AATA Would Lose $420K Without PPT

If Michigan’s personal property tax were to be eliminated, as proposed in Senate Bill 34, the amount of the annual transit tax that’s used to help fund the the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority would decrease by $420,000 annually. That’s a point of information included in the AATA’s annual audit, which was recently done by Plante & Moran.

AATA controller Phil Webb included the item in his reaction to other findings in the audit – which he conveyed in a memo to AATA’s CEO Michael Ford. The memo was part of the AATA board’s information packet for its April 19, 2012 meeting. Other audit findings were discussed at the board’s March 15, 2012 meeting and included in The Chronicle’s report … [Full Story]

County Board Tackles “Fracking” Concerns

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (April 4, 2012): Much of the county board’s recent meeting was devoted to an item not on their agenda – concerns about proposed oil and gas drilling in the Saline area using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Victoria Powell, Leah Gunn

Victoria Powell, who spoke during public commentary to oppose oil and gas drilling using the technique called "fracking," talks with commissioner Leah Gunn at the April 4, 2012 Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

Several residents spoke on the topic during public commentary, citing concerns over health, well contamination, property devaluation, and damaged roads caused by company tanker trucks, among other effects. They noted that state regulators aren’t providing adequate oversight or protection, and urged the board to take action.

Speakers included Mitch Rohde, CEO of Saline-based Quantum Signal and founder of “,” which has mobilized against drilling in this area by Paxton Resources, a company based in Gaylord, Mich. The company recently notified the county that it has filed an application with the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality for permission to drill an exploratory oil and natural gas well in Saline Township. [.pdf of notification letter]

Several commissioners thanked the speakers for coming and expressed their own intent to look into the issue, though it’s not clear what action can be taken at the county level. An April 19 working session will focus on the topic. That meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.

In other items at the April 4 meeting, commissioners honored county dispatchers and got an update on cleanup from the March 15 tornado that touched down in the Dexter area. Marc Breckenridge, the county’s director of emergency management and homeland security, gave an estimate of $5 million in damages to private homes and property, and another $2 million in response costs – expenses incurred from the road commission, county workers, the sheriff’s office and others. The county intends to apply to the state for help in covering some of these costs.

Funding controlled by the state was key to another item on the April 4 agenda: A resolution urging state legislators not to eliminate the personal property tax, unless 100% replacement revenues are guaranteed. More than $40 million in PPT revenues are received by local units of government within Washtenaw County. Leah Gunn, who wrote the resolution, expressed skepticism that legislators would pay attention to the county’s concerns, but said it would at least send the message: ”Don’t mess with us.”

Two action items were related to the county’s criminal justice system. The board approved the appointment of Elisha V. Fink as magistrate of the 14A District Court. She’s filling a vacant part-time position previously held by Camille Horne, who left the job at the end of 2011. Commissioners also gave initial approval to hire Nimish Ganatra as an assistant prosecuting attorney at a salary of $81,690. The vacancy opened in December, following an employee retirement. The hire requires board approval because the salary is above the $69,038 midpoint of an authorized range. While several commissioners praised the hire and the office of county prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie, Wes Prater cast a dissenting vote. Citing ongoing budget challenges, he objected to hiring someone at an above-midpoint level.

Several other items were handled during the meeting, including: (1) final approval for the county to become a charter member of the Washtenaw Health Initiative, at an annual cost of $10,000; (2) initial approval to accept federal grants for the county’s weatherization program for low-income residents; and (3) acceptance of federal grants for local workforce development programs.

During public commentary, Douglas Smith talked about a lawsuit he’s filed against the county over a denial of his Freedom of Information Act request. The FOIA related to a surveillance video of an incident in Ypsilanti Township involving the theft of $20 from a court employee’s car – Smith alleges the money was taken by a high-level staffer with the sheriff’s office. Smith has spoken about this issue at previous board meetings, asking the board to intervene. [Full Story]

County Board Sends Message to Lansing

Washtenaw County commissioners passed a resolution at their April 4, 2012 meeting asking state legislators to halt any bills that would eliminate the state’s personal property tax, unless 100% replacement revenues are guaranteed. More than $40 million in PPT revenues are received by local units of government within Washtenaw County.

The resolution calls the potential loss of PPT revenue “devastating,” and states that such a loss would ”severely reduce the level of services by the local governments, including but not limited to public safety, transportation, libraries, schools, and local infrastructure.”

Dan Smith abstained from the vote. Rob Turner was absent.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: … [Full Story]

Proposed County Budget Brings Cuts

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Sept. 21, 2011): County administrator Verna McDaniel and the county’s finance staff formally presented the two-year general fund budget on Sept. 21, showing how the administration proposes to balance the 2012-2013 budget with a mix of labor concessions, fee increases and funding cuts. Previously, an estimated $17.5 million deficit had been projected for that two-year period.

Ronnie Peterson and supporters of Washtenaw HeadStart program

County commissioner Ronnie Peterson, right, talks with supporters of the Washtenaw Head Start program. (Photos by the writer.)

Although the budget calls for a net loss of 32.22 full-time-equivalent jobs, most of those positions are either already vacant or will be handled through retirements, McDaniel said. One significant retirement was recognized during the meeting: Donna Sabourin, executive director of the county’s community support & treatment services (CSTS) department, who’s worked for the county for 20 years. Commissioners awarded her a resolution of appreciation, and also gave final approval to the CSTS budget for the coming year.

But the meeting’s main focus was the proposed general fund budget, which was discussed at length and will be the topic of most board meetings and working sessions at least through November. The county budget is based on a calendar year, from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, and is developed in two-year cycles.

Among the recommended cuts is a reduction of $1.2 million to local nonprofits and other agencies. For example, funding for the Humane Society of Huron Valley’s contract is proposed to drop from $500,000 in 2011 to $250,000 in 2012 and 2013. The Delonis Center homeless shelter’s funding could decline from $160,000 to $25,000.

The budget also calls for the county to relinquish its status as the federal “grantee” for the Head Start program in Washtenaw County, which would trigger a process to find a replacement entity. The county has administered the program for 46 years. About a dozen Head Start supporters showed up to Wednesday’s meeting, and urged commissioners to continue support for the program.

Though commissioners had several questions and comments about the 2012-2013 budget, several of them expressed even more concern for what’s on the horizon: Projected deficits of $11.6 million in 2014 and $14.7 million in 2015.

Board chair Conan Smith characterized the 2012-2013 budget as a recommendation that’s “ripe for public discussion at this point.” Everything is still on the table, he said. The board is expected to take up the topic again at its Oct. 5 meeting, and a public hearing on the budget is set for Oct. 19. The target date for approving the budget is Nov. 16.

There was no vote taken on the 2012-2013 budget directly, but the board took action on several other budget-related items. Among them, commissioners gave final approval to levy two taxes: for (1) services for indigent veterans; and (2) economic development and agriculture.

The board also passed a resolution in support of developing a regional transportation authority, after a failed attempt to postpone the vote. The resolution is a prelude to a Sept. 30 summit with Detroit and the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair, which will focus on region transit issues.

Two issues of note did not come before the board as expected. A proposed reorganization of county administration was pulled from the agenda at the start of the meeting. It would have replaced the deputy administrator position by giving additional responsibilities to four managers, paying them annual stipends of $15,000 each. The stipends were a sticking point – during public commentary, AFSCME Local 2733 president Caryette Fenner objected to the timing of that pay, in light of recent labor concessions made by employees.

And not on the agenda was an anticipated proposal by the Washtenaw County Road Commission, which was discussed by the board at its Sept. 8 working session. The road commission is presenting a request for a countywide millage to help pay for road repair. It’s a tax that the county board could impose without seeking voter approval. The plan was subsequently submitted to the county clerk on Friday, and could be addressed at the board’s Oct. 5 meeting. [Full Story]

Ann Arbor Library Board Briefed on Tax Issue

Ann Arbor District Library board meeting (Sept. 19, 2011): Much of Monday’s 20-minute public meeting was spent discussing the possible repeal of the state’s personal property tax – a move that would take an estimated $637,000 out of the library’s roughly $12 million annual budget.

Ed Surovell, Rebecca Head

Ann Arbor District Library trustees Ed Surovell and Rebecca Head. (Photo by the writer.)

Josie Parker briefed the board during her director’s report, saying she wanted trustees to be aware of the issue and of its potential impact on the library’s finances. Legislation has been introduced, but it’s not yet clear whether lawmakers will decided to eliminate the tax completely or simply reduce it. Also unclear is what – if any – options would be available to taxing authorities to replace that lost revenue. Parker noted that when Pfizer closed its Ann Arbor operation several years ago, the library also took a hit. Pfizer had been the city’s largest taxpayer.

Parker’s report also included news about a lawsuit brought by Herrick District Library against the Library of Michigan. The state library has decided not to appeal an August court of appeals decision, which ruled in favor of Herrick’s position. Herrick had challenged new rules that would have changed how public libraries qualify for state aid. The changes were seen as a threat to local control, by taking away certain decision-making authority from local libraries. AADL was the only individual library in the state to file an amicus curiae brief in support of Herrick.

There was no board discussion about a potential response to the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority’s excess tax capture decision. At issue is the interpretation of a city ordinance about tax increment finance (TIF) capture in the DDA’s downtown district. In July, the DDA board passed a resolution stating its opinion that the city’s ordinance does not require the DDA to return any money to taxing authorities in its TIF district – despite the fact that the DDA had already returned excess TIF revenue earlier this year.

The AADL is a taxing authority in the DDA’s TIF district and has been consulting with its legal counsel over the implications of that decision, as well as a possible response. Queried by The Chronicle after Monday’s meeting, Parker said the AADL has made no decision yet on the issue. [For background and analysis of the excess tax capture, see Chronicle columns: “Taxing Math Needs Another Look” and “TIF Capture is a Varsity Sport.”] [Full Story]