Lincoln Township board approves special assessment for fire protection
Assessment will free up money in general fund for operations, roads
LINCOLN TWP. — The Lincoln Township Board approved measures to set up a special assessment district for fire protection and implement a 1-mill assessment on township property owners during its meeting July 12.
The assessment will appear on residents’ winter tax bills, and is the equivalent of $1 for every $1,000 in taxable property value.
The move followed a public hearing on the measure, where Supervisor David Hertzberg explained why the board was seeking the special assessment to about a dozen residents.
“We’ve been watching our general fund dry up,” Hertzberg said. “Right now the (Standish Area) Fire Authority money has to come out of the general fund — about $24,000 is what we are obligated for — and that leaves nothing in the general fund for roads.”
He said the board has tried to scrape together money to work on a few projects. It cashed in certificates of deposit and cut back on road brining during its June meeting so it could work on East City Limits Road jointly with Standish Township, and it worked on Townline Road with Deep River Township last year. The board does not see anything that would generate much money in the near future, however.
Auburn Bean & Grain will not raise too much money for the township to begin with, he said, and if the prison reopens, it would not bring in a dime to the township for years, as the money from would be based on the census figures of prisoners there, which would not be counted again until 2020.
“The census figures only change every 10 years,” Treasurer Judy Bell said. “We would get a half a person for every person in the prison, so when it closed we still reaped the benefits from it until 2010.”
Hertzberg also explained the township gets its money from the state, and not directly from the township’s taxpayers. The tax money goes to Bell, he said, who then sends it to Lansing where it gets divvied up along with all other collected tax money for state plans and the various governmental units in the state in revenue sharing.
Those revenue sharing amounts have been dropping, he said, as the statutory revenue sharing, roughly 15 percent of the budget, is tied to the sales tax, which has dropped as the Michigan economy slowed down in the 2000s. Hertzberg said Snyder’s economic vitality dashboard initiative in 2011 limited it further unless municipalities fulfilled certain requirements.
The township also receives constitutional revenue sharing, but that too has dropped over time. The total amounts each municipality gets is based on the population, he said.
“Over the past 10 years, everything has dropped so much,” Hertzberg said. “Our revenue sharing in 2002 was $95,745. In 2012 it was $66,000. We lost $30,000 in revenue sharing, and it’s not just here but everywhere. It’s why cities and townships all over are in trouble, and why everyone is in trouble. We could sit on our hands and not do anything, but we want to do our road works.”
Hertzberg said with the cost of graveling roads risen to $15,000 per mile, the township’s funds do not go far. Roughly $12,000 was originally budgeted this year for all the township road work, including oiling the roads.
Township resident Marilyn Stein asked if the township could just gravel in specifically bad areas to save money like Clayton Township. Hertzberg said that unlike Clayton Township, Lincoln Township also oils the roads to prevent dust — an expense that costs about $6,000 per pass on all the township roads.
“We started this back in the good days when we were getting $95,000-$100,000,” he said. “One year on Johnsfield Road alone we spent $32,000, but we can’t do it anymore and people still expect us to do it.”
Resident Justin Sharp spoke in favor of the special assessment, thanking the township board for putting it out in front of residents instead of trying to ram it through.
“I know that having that mill may be a burden to some and not so much to others, but having to make up money and not have any money for the general fund is not the way to operate,” Sharp said. “Most of us can understand the money is not there any longer, so I want to express my wish that this mill actually go through.”
Assessor Denise Hall said the special assessment is not subject to the Headlee Rollback, which causes the amount collected off a mill to change when property values rise faster than the rate of inflation. It would instead always be 1 mill collected.
The special assessment could have been halted and put before a public vote if property owners people, who owned a combined total of about 20 percent of property in the township had opposed it at the meeting or in writing. Hertzberg said it seemed like most people in the township either understood the need or were interested in learning more.