Nominate an Individual or Organization for a Michigan Traffic Safety Award

Each year the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Commission (GTSAC) presents awards for traffic safety in Michigan. Award nominations must be received by November 4, 2016. The GTSAC was formed by an Executive Order of the Governor in 2002 to identify traffic safety challenges and develop, promote, and implement strategies to address them. Awards will be presented in the following categories.

Outstanding Traffic Safety Achievement Award: Award winners will be individuals or organizations whose contributions during 2014-2016 are judged to stand above others in the state. Nominations must include a well-defined problem and present clear and measurable results.

Richard H. Austin Long-Term Traffic Safety Achievement Award: Award winners will be individuals or organizations judged to best represent “the spirit of traffic safety” through a sustained, long-term contribution (10 years or longer) and commitment to traffic safety in Michigan.

Student Award: The GTSAC will recognize a high school of college student engaged in a traffic safety program.

Nominations must be received on or before November 4, 2016, at the address listed on the nomination form. Entries received after this date will not be considered. Questions may be directed to Ms. Janet Hengesbach Bawol at 517-284-3066 or For an electronic version of the nomination form please click here.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at or 517-908-0303.


Michigan League for Public Policy hosting forum on race and equity

Next month the Michigan League for Public Policy will host their annual forum, focused this year on Race, Poverty, and Policy:  Creating an Equitable Michigan.  Rinku Sen, the nationally acclaimed executive director of Race Forward: the Center for Racial Justice Innovation, will keynote the event which will bring together state and local policy makers, community leaders, business executives, and social and faith-based organizations for honest discussion about racial inequity and economic disparity.

As municipal leaders, are we playing a strong enough role in addressing racial inequity in our communities?  From our approach to policing, to our housing, land use, education, and employment policies, what we do impacts – and is impacted by – issues of race. This event offers a great opportunity for learning and conversation about how Michigan cities can make a positive difference.

The keynote address will be followed by five break-out sessions to choose from:

  • Solutions for cities in crisis
  • Government’s role in achieving race equity
  • The next move: taking equitable action for change
  • From watchdog to dog-whistle: media’s role in reporting on race
  • The business case for race equity

The Race, Poverty and Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan event takes place Monday, October 10, 2016, from 1:00 to 4:30 at the Radisson Hotel (111 N. Grand Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933).  Learn more and register HERE.

Shanna Draheim is MML’s Director of Policy Development.  She can be reached at or 517-908-0307.

Business Groups Push Back Against Dark Stores Fix

Last week, the Detroit News ran an op-ed article from a lobbyist with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, expressing their opposition to the dark stores fix being supported by the Municipal League and every other local government and education organization in the state.  The piece, titled “Local officials mislead property taxpayers“, asserts that the push for a legislative solution (HB 5578) on the big box retail tax assessment appeal issue is being driven by “Local officials, who are unhappy that their efforts to over-assess taxpayers have been routinely rejected in court“.  The opinion piece goes on to claim that the proposed legislation is unconstitutional, would force the MI Tax Tribunal to ignore accepted appraisal principles, and that local governments would use the bill to over-tax businesses based on their profitability.  The author closes by stating “Local governments are trying to legitimize over-taxing by making scapegoats out of job providers who have successfully challenged their over-assessments.”

Unfortunately, the author uses more spin than fact in their arguments.  A quick reading of the language in House Bill 5578 (Maturen) reveals a very different picture…

  • the legislation only impacts those property tax appeals that are heard by the entire tribunal
  • when determining a property’s highest and best use, the language requires the tribunal to consider all relevant information provided by both sides of a dispute, based upon each traditional method of property valuation (cost, sales comparison, and income)
  • for the purpose of sales comparison only, the language precludes the use of data from properties subject to certain deed restrictions designed to impair the highest and best use of the property

The basic premise of the proposal is to ensure that the tribunal has the very best, most comprehensive set of facts at their disposal when setting critical tax policy precedent. Decisions made by the tribunal should ensure that the each of the basic principles of valuation are appropriately considered in every type of situation and that the tribunal, to the greatest extent possible, compares like properties and economic conditions to ensure the most accurate decisions.

And that’s it…nothing nefarious or difficult to understand…the bill was even drafted by the legislator most qualified to take on this issue.  The sponsor, Rep David Maturen (R-Vicksburg) is the current vice-chair of the House Tax Policy committee and has spent his career in the real estate appraisal industry.  Rep. Maturen has held a Level 3 Assessor Certification in Michigan for over 30 years, has worked for the Property Tax Division of the Michigan Department of Treasury and has served on the Michigan Board of Real Estate Appraisers and for the Appraisal Foundation in Washington. D.C.  That experience and understanding is the main reason the sound, simple policy in this bill passed the Michigan House of Representatives in June by a 97-11 margin.

The groups opposed to HB 5578 are focusing all of their efforts on stopping further action on this bill.  Please contact your State Senator and ask them to support action this fall on HB 5578 as a common sense, objective solution to this critical issue.

Form more information on the Dark Stores issue, please visit the League’s advocacy page here –

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and

TIF Legislation Active in Both Chambers

Newly introduced House legislation would require TIF authorities to undertake additional transparency and reporting requirements as well as eliminate the capturing of special millages. HB 5851-5856 covers DDAs, Water Resource Improvement TIFAs, LDFAs, CIAs, TIFAs and BRAs. The six bill package is on the agenda of the House Local Government Committee for Wednesday, September 14. We have been informed the House committee will be taking testimony only at this hearing, with any action to take place at a later hearing. The League is working with a group of municipalities along with our Economic Development and Land Use Committee to develop our response to this package.

HB 5851-5855 requires each authority, or the municipality which established the authority, to have a website displaying all authority documents (budget, audit, meeting minutes, contracts, events, promotional materials, plans, and more). The bills require a minimum of one informational meeting to take place annual with special noticing of that meeting(s). There are also additional reporting requirements to the annual report sent to the State Tax Commission as well as the requirement to now send this report to all governing bodies of a taxing unit levying taxes captured by an authority. If notified by the State Tax Commission of failure to send the annual report or non-compliance with the reporting requirements, an authority may not capture any tax increment revenues that are in excess of the amount needed for bonds or other obligations.

Additional language in each bill would eliminate the ability for an authority to capture special voted mills similar to what was done for the Detroit Zoo and DIA.

At the same time, we have been very involved in conversations in the Senate on SB 1026. Senator Horn held meetings with the League and various DDAs around the state this summer. It is expected that SB 1026 will be taken up in committee later this month. Recent draft versions have included numerous League suggested amendments. We are encouraged by this progress and hopeful the version brought before the committee will address our concerns.

The League will be working with the House committee on HB 5851-5856 to incorporate the positive progress we have made in SB 1026. It is unknown at this time if either package will move, and what the other chamber’s interest will be in the differing bill approaches. We will continue to keep everyone updated as the situation evolves.

Jennifer Rigterink is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development, land use and municipal services issues.  She can be reached at or 517-908-0305.

Treasury Seeking Input From Communities on Revised F-65 Report

Treasury is requesting feedback from communities on the Department’s current F-65 revision project by September 23, 2016.

The Michigan Department of Treasury has been responsible for producing a template and receiving a completed Annual Local Unit Fiscal Report (F-65) from all primary local units of government in the State of Michigan. This template has undergone minor revisions over the past five years. However, the Department will be moving from its current platform to a new online filing system in 2017. Therefore, this is an opportunity to incorporate some significant revisions to the content. As part of the revision process, we are issuing this exposure draft and invite all comments related to the changes. The following link will download a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which has multiple tabs at the left-hand bottom corner of the form. Please refer to them when performing a review. The Excel version has been produced for Exposure Draft purposes only. Formatting issues may be disregarded as they will be different in the online system. As the department moves closer to its launch of the new online system (similar to that of the audit report), more information will be forthcoming.

Any individual or organization that would like to submit comments should provide those comments in writing by the deadline stated above to the Michigan Department of Treasury, Local Government Financial Services Division, PO Box 30728, Lansing, Michigan 48909-8228. Alternatively, an email may be sent to with the subject line entitled “Exposure Draft.”


Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and

Treasury Accepting Applications for Financially Distressed Community Grants

The Department of Treasury recently announced that the application period for the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages, and Townships $5 million grant program is now open.  According to Treasury’s announcement:

Municipalities experiencing financial struggles can apply for a grant from the Michigan Department of Treasury to help fund special projects and free up tax dollars for important services. Applications for the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages, and Townships (FDCVT) grant program are now available. Municipalities interested in applying for an award must submit applications to the Department of Treasury by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, October 17, 2016. All cities, villages, and townships, experiencing at least one condition of “probable financial distress” as outlined in Public Act 436 of 2012, the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act*, are eligible to apply for up to $2 million. A total of $5 million in funding is available for Treasury to award through the FDCVT grant program this year. Grant funding may be used to pay for specific projects, services, or strategies that move the city, village, or township toward financial stability. Preference will be given to applicants from local units in which: A financial emergency has been declared in the past ten years; or, An approved Deficit Elimination Plan for the General Fund is currently in place; or, Two or more conditions indicating “probable financial distress” currently exist; or, The fund balance of the General Fund has been declining over the past five years and the fund balance is less than 3% of the General Fund Revenues.

Please follow this link for more information about FDCVT grants and for copies of the grant application.

.Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and

Outstanding ‘Boxed In’ Documentary Film Explains Dark Stores Tax Loophole Issue in Michigan

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There is a fantastic new documentary film that does an outstanding job explaining the complex, yet devastating “Dark Stores” tax loophole issue facing Michigan communities. This is a hot topic the Michigan Municipal League has been fighting for more than a year and at a compact 24-minutes it is great film to show in your local communities when explaining this issue.

“Boxed In” is a documentary by Northern Michigan University Professor Dwight Brady, an Emmy Award winning producer, and 14 NMU students.

It premiered in Marquette Aug. 24 and will be shown again Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Escanaba at 7 p.m. in the Besse Theater at Bay College.

You can watch the documentary and read more about it, including a press release, here:

Attorney Jack Van Coevering is featured in 'Box In'.

Attorney Jack Van Coevering is featured in ‘Box In’.

You can also read more information about the Dark Stores issue on the League’s Dark Stores resource page here:

In essence, the Dark Store theory is a tax loophole scheme being used by Big Box retailers to lower the amount they pay in property taxes. Retailers such as Meijer, Lowe’s, Target, Kohl’s, Menards, IKEA, Wal-Mart and Home Depot across Michigan are arguing that the market value of their operating store should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned and may not even be located in Michigan. The stores also place deed restrictions on the vacated buildings that greatly limit what can go in the buildings once they are empty and become dark.

A bill to address the issue was overwhelming approved in the Michigan House in a 97-11 vote ( in June, but is pending in the state Senate where greater opposition is expected.

An example of a Dark Store. Big Box stores argue vacant, or dark stores, like this one should be used as a comparable for tax evaluation purposes when valuing a vibrant, open big box store. Unfortunately the Michigan Tax Tribunal since 2010 has started to agree.

An example of a Dark Store. Big Box stores argue vacant, or dark stores, like this one should be used as a comparable for tax evaluation purposes when valuing a vibrant, open big box store. Unfortunately the Michigan Tax Tribunal since 2010 has started to agree.

The documentary film started out as a class project but it quickly developed into a much larger story that took Dr. Brady and his students from Marquette, to Lansing, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Grand Blanc and other other stops along the way.

They interviewed 15 different sources, including State Rep. David Maturen, who authored the bill that was approved in the House. The bill would require the Michigan State Tax Tribunal to follow traditional methods of assessing property.

The students also interviewed Grand Blanc Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta, current Chair of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, Steven Lasher, and Former Chief Judge Jack Van Coevering to get different perspectives on the issue. Read more about the film here:

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at and 734-669-6317.

MDOT to Offer Free Rural Task Force Training

On behalf of the Rural Task Force Oversight Board and the Education Subcommittee, MDOT is pleased to bring you a free, one-day Rural Task Force training event.  The training will be held in four locations throughout the state.  Also, if you have any specific questions you would like addressed or any issues or concerns you would like included in the presentation, please submit them through this Survey Monkey Link:

The dates and locations are as follows:

  • October 18:  Gaylord, University Center, 80 Livingston Blvd, Gaylord 49735
  • October 20:  Marquette, Holiday Inn, 1951 US 41 West, Marquette 49855
  • October 24:  Lansing, Horatio Earl Training Center, 7575 Crowner Dr., Dimondale, MI 48821
  • October 26:  Flint, Flint Mass Transit Administration and Training Facility, 1401 South Dort Highway, Flint 48503


A block of rooms at state rates have been reserved the night before for each location.  You will need to contact the hotel and make your own reservation.  The block of rooms will be available up to one month prior to the training.  Specific information for each is listed below:

  • Gaylord: Baymont Inn, 510 S Wisconsin Ave, Gaylord, MI 49735 Phone: (989) 731-6331. Use Group ID# 1017RT
  • Marquette, Holiday Inn, 1951 US 41 West, Marquette 49855, (906) 225-1351. Let them know you are with MDOT Rural Task Force training
  • Lansing, SpringHill Suite, 111 South Marketplace Boulevard, Lansing 48917, (517) 627-0002. Use this link:  Book your group rate for MDOT Rural Task Force Training
  • Flint, Holiday Inn Express, 1150 Robert T. Longway, Flint 48503, (810) 238-7744. Use Group:  MDT


Please click on the following links for the Registration Form and Agenda

You should fill out one form per person.  Space may be limited based on the locations.  We will fill the space by first come first serve with priority given to the public sector.  We may need to limit participation to only one person per agency.  Continental breakfast, coffee and lunch will be provided.

There will also be an opportunity to participate in the Lansing session via webinar.  If you are interested please check the webinar line on the registration form and make sure to include your email address.  Information for joining the webinar will be provided in a later email.

If you have any questions, please contact Andy Brush ( or Betsy Simon (

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at or 517-908-0303.

Beach Safety & Emergency Equipment Guidance

Michigan has in excess of 2,100 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, which contain more than 100 public beaches. When conditions are right the Great Lakes can have waves and currents of incredible force. Unfortunately, hazardous water currents on the Great Lakes account for may drowning deaths each year. Rip currents, other dangerous currents and unsafe wave conditions can occur along many beaches around the state.

In recent years, there’s been an important focus to make the public aware of the danger involving unsafe water currents as well as providing additional safety and rescue equipment at public beaches, but concerns have been raised about liability.  Many local units of government have expressed trepidation about potential liability regarding the placement of safety and rescue equipment on their public swimming beaches.  However, Michigan governmental agencies are generally immune from liability in connection with beach safety.  Still, it is nonetheless important for communities to take every measure they can to protect public safety.

Communities looking to establish or update their beach safety guidelines, policies and plans have numerous resources to refer to for review. For example, in May, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources updated their Designated Beach Policy. To view the policy click the link provided MDNR POLICY 3. 6 DESIGNATED BEACHES 05-05-16 (002). A few local community examples are provided in the links below.

Any local unit of government having specific questions should discuss this matter with their legal counsel.

Jennifer Rigterink is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development, land use and municipal services issues.  She can be reached at or 517-908-0305.

Personal Property Tax Implementation Takes Center Stage

PPT training in Marquette on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.

PPT training in Marquette on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016.

Based upon the significant level of questions from municipalities across the state with this initial phase of implementation of the new personal property tax system, the League reached out to Treasury and we are coordinating with the Department to provide opportunities for municipalities to hear from Treasury’s personal property tax staff through a few regional “office hours” style meetings.

The first of these meetings was held in July in Muskegon with an second event held today in Marquette.  Dozens of communities in these regions with a significant industrial/manufacturing personal property tax base, were able to send management and finance staff to participate in these events and talk directly with Treasury staff to get answers to their questions as this new system is being implemented.

Treasury staff provided an overview presentation on the status of implementation of the new law (Personal Property Tax Update 2016 Reimbursement Slides JJune 28 2016), discussed the relevant timelines they are working with according to the new law, reviewed the forms that have been (and are being) developed, discussed the role of the Essential Services Assessment as part of the overall reimbursement process, provided answers to some of the most commonly asked questions (PPT.FAQs_-_LCSSR_Essential_Services_Distribution_Calculation_529232_7), and walked the meeting attendees through some various examples for calculating PPT loss and estimating reimbursement (all subject to change depending on the actual revenues available this fall that the reimbursements will be drawn from).

Acknowledging the questions the Department continues to receive on the new process, Treasury has stated that they will continue to accept Form 5448 from any community that wishes to submit their information through the end of August.

The League appreciates Treasury’s willingness to participate in these events and we will continue to work with the Department to offer additional opportunities for municipalities to meet in person and have their questions and concerns addressed.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and