Montcalm County equalization employee reinstated – temporarily

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 1:27 pm on Friday, October 28, 2011

STANTON – The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners had a change of heart Monday, giving Yvonne Niswonger her job back in the Equalization Department – at least temporarily.
The commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate Niswonger to her assessment roll specialist job for 24 hours per week for eight weeks beginning Oct. 31. Her position will cost the county about $3,600.

Niswonger was laid off Sept. 26 as part of $1.3 million in Montcalm County budget cuts.

Senior Appraiser Kay Vestergaard and Address Administrator Deb Becker repeatedly asked commissioners to use $10,000 of the $40,000 salary from former Director Richard Reeves’ currently vacant position, plus funds for dues, conference expenses and employee training to save Niswonger’s job.

Hyzer recommended commissioners reinstate Niswonger in an Oct. 20 memo.

“This addition to their office will help to assure the sales study and other reports are completed in a timely fashion,” Hyzer’s memo stated.

Becker was pleased that the commissioners changed their minds.

“Now we will be able to get our study done as well as keep up with the rest of our requirements for the state,” she told The Daily News.
Montcalm County currently has a waiver from the state that allows Vestergaard – who is a Level 3 assessor – to sign necessary county documents. The state requires the county to have a Level 4 assessor on staff and the waiver expires on Dec. 31.

Vestergaard is serving as interim director of the department while Hyzer searches for a permanent director.

Hyzer received a Sept. 29 letter from Kelli Sobel of the State Tax Commission. The letter stated that Montcalm County’s combined commercial, industrial, utility and special acts in state equalized value (SEV) for 2011 was in excess of the $424,000,000 limit, necessitating the oversight of a Level 4 equalization director. Sobel said future applications for a waiver for Montcalm County will likely not be approved.

“Montcalm County has maintained an SEV significantly over the … limit for several years and received a waiver for each of those years,” the letter stated. “It is the State Tax Commission’s position that Montcalm County must employ a (Level) 4 assessor as equalization director by 2012 to meet its statutory requirements.”

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