MENOMINEE — The city of Menominee has taken the last step required by Michigan’s State Tax Commission to get its 2015 and 2016 tax rolls returned.
At a meeting of the Finance Committee Wednesday, City Manager Tony Graff said that a second letter had been sent to all the property owners whose 2016 land value adjustments and economic condition factors had been found to be incorrect in a 2016 AMAR study.
The work assigned to Edward VanderVries, a master level assessor, by the Michigan Department of Treasury State Tax Commission began shortly after the commission seized the 2016 assessment roll on Nov. 29, 2016. At that time, the commission also had possession of the 2015 tax roll, which had several areas with discrepancies, as well as the absence of a signature from an assessor of record.
VanderVries made several trips to the area and worked with City Assessor Peg Bastien, who was hired as a full-time city employee in 2016 after the resignation of contracted assessor Mari Negro.
The city received a letter and a bill from the State Tax Commission, dated Feb. 15, 2017, which indicated VanderVries had completed his work of reviewing and developing land values, reviewing the economic condition factors in the 2016 roll before developing new ECFs. He also “provided support to Ms. Bastien in development of the 2017 tax roll and provided overall values by classification as well as individual parcel values to be used by the City for the 2016 and 2017 rolls.”
The cost — $25,000 — has already been paid to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
The city was required to send letters within 30 days of the final determination of the new assessment and new taxable value. Property owners are given the right to petition the tax tribunal directly for a hearing on the assessed valuation or taxable value within 30 days after receiving that letter from the city.
“Letters went out this week with an adjustment for 2016,” Graff said, said of a second letter that went out to parcel owners. He said some of the adjustments were minor, while others were more complicated.
Graff said Bastien was involved this week and next with the Board of Review, and will turn over all those results to the county when the process is completed.
In the meantime, the city is working with the count and the state to determine how to put the altered 2016 figures into the BS&A system.
Graff said the figures that came as a result of VanderVries’ work are on a spreadsheet, which creates a problem for entering the numbers into the computer program.
“You can’t just go in and change people’s taxes,” Graff said. The city is working with Peggy Schroud, Menominee County Equalization Director, to set up a conference call with the State Tax Commission, to determine what steps need to be taken to change the computer records.
The committee spoke briefly about Graff’s suggestion that it might be time to consider a citywide appraisal of all properties, but with a price tag of about $232,000, said discussion could come at a later time. Graff said spending the $232,000 now would give the city a good baseline for the future.
He said the corrections made by VanderVries allowed the city to move forward with its 2017 tax roll.
“I am often asked what happened,” Graff said of the errors that were made in the 2016 tax roll, adding that, at this point, it was for someone else to worry about.
But council member Bill Plemel said he was worried about what had happened to change some property owner’s assessed values by an increase of as much as 900 percent to a decrease in the double digits. He said the change in assessment didn’t change taxes for the owners, and could go unnoticed until they sold their properties.
“Most people don’t understand assessments,” Plemel said. He said he wanted to know what happened and “why some of this happened.”
Graff said mistakes were made, but that no one knows if they were intentional or because of inexperience. “I know you’re frustrated,” he said to Plemel.
Council member Frank Pohlmann, chairman of the committee, steered the conversation back to determining whether the city had followed the steps necessary to get the tax rolls back.
“Has it been followed? The steps were taken?” he asked Graff.
“Yes,” Graff said. “The last step was the notice that just went out. We met our goal and they are now back in our hands for 2017, to do it right.”