A recent article about Marion Township Trustee Candidates that appeared in the Livingston Daily got me thinking about property tax assessments. Two of the eight candidates placed property tax assessments high on their election platform. This struck me as odd, considering that Michigan Property Tax Assessments are state mandated, and the Township Trustee has no control over the State Equalized Value (SEV) of any resident’s property. So, to clear up some misconceptions, here’s what I’ve learned.
The article stated, “Grunn…said that if elected, his goals are to keep property tax assessments down and to build policies that encourage residents to “stay and thrive” in the area and to “take an interest or role in township activities.” Sounds good right? It’s really important that our candidates take an interest in the activities they are elected to perform. Even better is if they understand their powers, and a Township Trustee can’t do much about keeping property tax assessments down. Here’s why – your assessment is based on the State Equalized Value of your property which is set by state guidelines. The Township Assessor (not the Trustee) must use that State Assessors Manual to calculate the taxable value of the property which by law cannot increase more than the rate of inflation or 5% annually, whichever is less. Taxable value can never be less than State Equalized Value.
The Livingston Daily article also stated: “Murray…emphasized the importance of accurate, fair property tax assessments performed in the township, and said he wants to make sure they are “fairly performed throughout the township.” Sounds great right? But the only power that the Trustee really has is to hire a Township Assessor by majority passage of a Board vote. Sure, the Board has authority of administrative duties with regard to providing uniform property tax assessments and as a service our Township collects those taxes on behalf of other units of the government, but those administration practices are mandated by the state and cannot be changed by a Trustee.
You might think, as I did before contacting the Michigan Townships Organization today, and speaking with Debbie, that a Trustee might be involved in special assessments, or hardship cases on your property assessments. Nope! That’s out of the Trustee’s hands as well and is handled directly by the Township Assessor or by the Board of Review when a formal complaint is made.
To recap, the Township Board of Trustees does have the power to hire an assessor, and has broad duties covering assessment administration and tax collection. However, there is no way that a Trustee can directly affect the property value of your home, which is state mandated, unless of course they buy it from you or make physical changes to your property in some way. So, I find it kind of disturbing that these candidates, one of whom has been appointed and serving since March of this year, think they have that power and that it’s important enough to be the main thrust of their campaign promises.
If you would like to learn more about the role of a Township Trustee you can check out, What Are The Core Competencies Of A Township Trustee? or the MTA PDF that explains Township Government In Michigan. .Another helpful publication that can help you understand your property tax assessments is the Michigan Property Tax Explanation.