Increase to county's economic development millage? Commissioners want more public input
Washtenaw County officials are considering passing an increase to an economic development millage -- but want more public input as talks progress on the millage rate and its allocation.
The issue is one commissioners have been debating for about a month, as it has moved out of the Ways and Means committee Sept. 5 and into the general board meeting Sept. 19. At the most recent meeting, commissioners tabled the issue after Commissioner Conan Smith proposed a greater increase to the millage to fund the Aerotropolis.
The millage will come before the Board of Commissioners about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday night in conjunction with a public hearing, as the hearing will be held before commissioners issue a final vote. The board meets at 220 North Main St. in Ann Arbor.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Conan Smith cited the decrease in property tax values of about 2.7 percent from 2011 to 2012 as a factor in dwindling public coffers. He also noted median household income in Washtenaw County has increased by 8 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Though the board had a public hearing Sept. 19 on the proposed 0.05 mill tax rate, Conan Smith brought an official amendment forward that proposed a rate of 0.06 mills after the hearing - a move that Commissioner Ronnie Peterson said he found to mislead the public.
Several commissioners requested a second public hearing be conducted at the next full board meeting Wednesday to give time for input on the proposed increase from 0.05 mills to 0.06 mills.
Last year, commissioners voted 7-3 to renew the agriculture and economic development levy -- commonly known as an Act 88 millage -- at a rate of 0.05 mills. Commissioners Dan Smith, Alicia Ping and Wesley Prater voted against the increase, and Peterson was absent.
A tax rate of 0.05 mills raises $683,095 per year and a rate of 0.06 mills would raise $838,578 per year, and mean a payment of $5 or $6 per year, respectively, for a homeowner with a house with a taxable value of $100,000.
The county board can levy up to half of a mill without holding public hearings because of the authority granted to the entity under Public Act 88, according to the county’s corporation counsel Curtis Hedger.
The last day the county can approve the millage rate in order for it to make the December tax assessment is Nov. 7.
Commissioners Dan Smith, Ping and Peterson have stated in previous board meetings this year that they oppose the increase to the millage.
The millage would assessed on the December tax rolls, collected in the county’s Economic Development and Agriculture Millage Fund and be distributed among several institutions.
Resolutions for the 0.05 mill and 0.06 mill tax rates both include the following allocations:
- $200,000 for Ann Arbor SPARK and $50,000 for its associated nonprofit SPARK East
- $100,000 for the Eastern Leaders Group
- $82,500 for the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Program
- $15,000 for the 4-H Youth Show
- $15,000 for the Food Systems Economic Partnership
- $15,000 to the MSU Extension for economic development in the local food system
However, the resolutions differ on how much should be allocated to the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development.
The initially proposed resolution calling for a 0.05 mill tax rate would distribute $140,331 specifically to the Office of Community and Economic Development and $65,264 specifically for the office’s Heritage Tourism promotions in Washtenaw County.
The newer resolution calling for a 0.06 mill tax rate - which would raise $155,483 more than the 0.05 mill rate - includes a specific $50,000 allocation for the Aerotropolis, and the remaining balance of $311,078 to be given to Public Act 88 efforts of the Office of Community and Economic Development including heritage tourism, the Food Policy Council, Workforce Development Board and the Economic Development Corporation.