Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Tax Appeal Legislation

This afternoon the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on Senate Bills 1038, 1039 and 1040, bills that make changes to the tax appeal process and the Michigan Tax Tribunal Act.

The League has a lot of concerns regarding the way the Tax Tribunal has been valuing property and the losses sustained by our local communities; however, this legislation does not make changes that would address those concerns.

Among our concerns is that the bills in some instances bypass the local boards of review which would be more cumbersome for taxpayers as well as local units of government.

Additionally SB 1039 amends the Tax Tribunal Act to remove assessors and appraisers from the Tribunal, which would be made up only of attorneys under the bills.

In an attempt to “streamline” the process, the bills instead take away local control and make the process more cumbersome for both taxpayers and local units of government. The committee did not vote on the bills, and the sponsor expressed a willingness to work on amendments.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Passes Bill Clarifying Reasonable Court Costs

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Cunningham that a court may impose costs in a criminal case only if those costs are authorized by statute. This decision has a huge impact on courts across Michigan including our district courts.

The House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 5785, legislation that would allow a court to impose any reasonable cost on a defendant found guilty of a crime. The League is supportive of this legislation.

Reasonable costs include salaries and benefits of court personnel; goods and services necessary for operation of the court; and/or necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of court buildings and facilities.

The bill requires the court to make available to the general public and the defendant information about any costs, fines or assessments imposed beginning June 18, 2014.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Passes Bill Extending Sunset for OPEB Bonding

Yesterday morning the House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee passed Senate Bill 922, a bill to extend the sunset for bonding for other post employment benefits (OPEB) and the costs of switching from defined benefit to defined contribution. This is an option for communities with a AA credit rating.

The sunset will be extended to December 31, 2015. The League has been pushing for an additional change to allow communities with an A rating or better to use this option if they purchase bond insurance. Thus far we have not been successful in getting this amendment.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Considers Open Meetings Act Legislation

This afternoon the House Oversight Committee heard testimony on HB 5580, legislation that would amend the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to require minutes of meetings to be more detailed.

The legislation would require minutes to detail how each member voted. If the meeting is not recorded, the minutes would be required to include the main points of discussing in support or opposition to each issue. It would also require a summary of the remarks of every person who addresses the public body.

The League was joined by the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan Townships Association in opposing the legislation. The fear is that this will have unintended consequences for communities. The legislation is vaguely written, and as a result could result in inadvertent violations of the Act.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

Reminder: Forms Due for Small Parcel Debt Reimbursement for Personal Property Tax

Just a reminder that Treasury Form 5192 to claim reimbursement for millage levied in July 2014 for the debt loss/school debt loss from the personal property 2014 small taxpayer exemption loss is due by September 5. Forms returned by September 5 should be processed for October 2014 reimbursement.

To be eligible for reimbursement a local unit must have levied debt millage in 2013. Form 5192 is posted under Reimbursement Forms on the Treasury web page.

The reimbursement form for debt millage levied in December 2014 will be available next month.

Please contact Treasury with any form related questions at TreasORTA@michigan.gov.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

Grant Applications Available for Financially Distressed Communities Program

The State’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget includes grants for financially distressed cities, villages and townships. Applications for that program are now posted on the Department of Treasury’s website.

Any city or village currently experiencing at least one condition of “probable financial distress,” as enumerated in the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act passed in 2012 is eligible to apply for funding.

There is $8 million has been appropriated for the grant program this fiscal year, with a $2 million limit for each local unit of government. Applications must be submitted to Treasury by the close of business on Friday, October 31, 2014. For more information visit www.michigan.gov/revenuesharing.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

MI Energy Office Offering Grants for Street Light Upgrades

The Michigan Strategic Fund through the Michigan Energy Office is offering grants for Michigan communities and Downtown Development Authorities that owns and operates its own public street lighting to upgrade their street lights with light emitting diode (LED) lights.

Grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 are available with a 100% match requirement. For more details, you can visit the MEDC public notice and RFP page for the LED Street Lighting Project website.

The full RFP including the details on how to apply can be found online as well. Applicant questions are due via email by August 25, 2014. In addition a Q&A form will be posted to the MEDC website by August 29. The deadline to submit proposals is September 15, 2014.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

Proposal One Passed – Check Out League Website for Additional Information

The passage of Proposal 1 last week means personal property tax will being phasing out in 2016 (in addition to the small parcel exemption that went into effect this year.)  League members have had a lot of questions regarding the passage of the proposal.

One main question has been the amount of reimbursement for local units. The Department of Treasury has put together a reimbursement sheet to help members calculate reimbursement. It’s available here: ppt reimbursement worksheet

We also have an updated “one-pager plus” fact sheet on our website that includes answers to some frequently asked questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions about the legislation as well.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

Treasury Releases PPT Reimbursement Calculator

The Department of Treasury has released a personal property tax reimbursement spreadsheet to help members calculate their reimbursement amounts under the legislation the Governor signed in March. You can view the spreadsheet and determine your community’s reimbursement amount here: ppt reimbursement worksheet

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306

Senate Passes Detrimental Public Safety Exception to PA 54, Tell Your Lawmakers to Oppose this Plan

This afternoon the Senate passed Senate Bill 850, a bill that would exempt police and fire from PA 54 so they can have retroactive pay increases after a contract expires. The bill passed by a vote of 27-10.

In 2011 the legislature passed a number of reforms to help employers control costs and be better stewards of taxpayer resources. One of the, if not the, most significant reform was to prohibit retroactive pay increases after a contract has expired. This game changing statute, PA 54 of 2011, has helped communities settle contracts more quickly and provides more certainty in municipal budgets. Passage of SB 850 would be detrimental to our ability to settle contracts quickly and efficiently.

The Michigan Municipal League has been strongly opposed to this bill and we continue to urge you to contact your legislators to let them know how detrimental this carve out would be. The arguments the public safety groups use for supporting this bill are that the number of PA 312 filings would proliferate and the legislature only intended this bill to impact teachers.

According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission there were only 43 PA 312 filings in 2013 as opposed to 69 in 2011. PA 312 filings are significantly lower than they were before enactment of PA 54.

In addition, even if the legislature only intended this for teachers, it has been a game changer for municipal budgets, and it’s critical that we keep this tool to allow local units the opportunity to settle contracts expeditiously and save taxpayers money.

We appreciate all the members who have already contacted their lawmakers on this issue and we hope others follow their lead. It is critical that you please contact your legislators and ask them to OPPOSE Senate Bill 850. You can find the contact information for your Legislators here. We’ve also prepared a letter you can email directly to your lawmakers. Go here to do that today.

The legislation now goes to the House for consideration. A House version, House Bill 5097, is on the House floor.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.