Montcalm County’s equalization report shows stability

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 3:16 pm on Wednesday, April 25, 2012

STANTON — United Solar Ovonic (USO) has a major influence on Montcalm County’s taxable value this year — but the numbers are misleading.

Montcalm County entered into a shared services agreement with the Kent County Equalization Department in March.

Kent County Equalization Deputy Director Steve Rickers attended Monday’s Montcalm County Board of Commissioners meeting to report on this year’s equalization statistics on behalf of Kent County Equalization Director Matthew Woolford, who was unable to attend.

Montcalm County saw an estimated $30 million increase in taxable value due to USO in Greenville — a technical increase of 2.3 percent for the county. However, the increase is only .59 percent in reality.

“Even though they (USO) reported an increase, because they’re in a Renaissance Zone, it doesn’t really have an impact in terms of the city of Greenville or Montcalm County’s budget,” Woolford said. “Even though it looks really good on paper, it doesn’t make a different in the end result.

“It’s not just like any other property in Montcalm County,” he said. “This is a really unique situation in Greenville. Even though the company has made an attempt to establish a presence there and they’re reporting their values correctly, the fact that it’s in a Renaissance Zone is kind of misleading in terms of how percentages are going up.”

When a business opens in a Renaissance Zone, a county does not collect any taxes from that business for a determined number of years as part of an incentive program.

“If you include the $30 million in the values, it looks like the taxable value is increasing 2.3 percent,” Woolford said. “If you remove the influence of that value, the effective increase in taxable value is only .59 percent. Montcalm County as a whole is getting a 2.3 increase in taxable value. However,, because of the influence of this one property … it’s just so big it’s skewing the perception of what’s happening.”
USO and its parent company, Energy Conversion Devices of Auburn Hills, both filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 14 after incurring $263.2 million in debt, due in 2013, in addition to significant legacy costs incurred over the past 50 years.

USO was set to be auctioned off Tuesday, but the auction date was extended to May 8. Its future in Greenville remains unknown.

“It’s a very large property that you won’t be collecting on,” Rickers noted to commissioners, referring to USO’s location within a Renaissance Zone classification.

At Monday’s meeting, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the 2012 equalization report for the county. The equalization report is comprised of assessment roles from the 20 townships and three cities within Montcalm County and ascertains whether the real and personal property in those townships and cities have been assessed in accordance with state law.

The report determined that the equalized value of all taxable property equalized at $1,907,865,992 for real property value and $164,724,900 for personal property value for a total equalized value of just over $2 billion.

“Overall it shows that values in Montcalm County have been stable over the past year,” Woolford noted. “As we go through these difficult economic times, Montcalm County is showing that it’s been rather stable from 2011 to 2012. Montcalm County is typical for our region. The agriculture classification is the most stable classification in the current economic conditions. To the extent that the agriculture economics does well, Montcalm County should not have large swings on values that are related to manufacturing and industrial jobs.”

Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer declined comment for this story.

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