Public hearing set for Monday to debate property tax increase


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 8:44 am on Friday, January 24, 2014

STANTON — Monday afternoon’s Montcalm County Board of Commissioners meeting will feature a public hearing about a controversial economic development proposal.

And the commissioner who has been the most vocal advocate of the property tax increase no longer thinks the proposal has enough support from his fellow commissioners to be approved.

Last November, the Montcalm Alliance, a local economic development group, asked commissioners to consider enacting a .1 millage to generate $163,000 to fund the Alliance’s plan to join forces with The Right Place, a West Michigan economic development agency. The Alliance asked commissioners to implement the millage via Michigan’s Public Act 88 of 1913, without a ballot vote by the public.

In early December, the commissioners’ Economic Development & Physical Resources Committee voted to recommend the full board approve the request, with Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township making the motion.

The full board met in mid-December. The meeting got underway with a lengthy public comment session, the majority of the comments speaking out in opposition to the PA 88 millage. Despite the opposing feedback, Johansen made a motion to approve the committee’s recommendation. However, Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview declined to allow Johansen’s motion, saying a public hearing must take place first.

Johansen has since changed his approach in supporting the millage, even going so far to say at the most recent Coalition of Greater Greenville (COGG) meeting that he doesn’t believe the PA 88 millage will be approved by his fellow commissioners.

“I made a statement at COGG that PA 88 would not go forward because it can only be implemented one year at a time instead of over a three-year period,” Johansen confirmed. “It’s my opinion that there will not be enough votes to support PA 88.”

Several Gratiot County residents attended the mid-December meeting to tell commissioners how PA 88 was implemented and then repealed in their own county. Residents offering a word of caution included Gratiot County District 5 Commissioner Scott Showers of Ithaca, who detailed how multiple Gratiot County commissioners were voted out of office primarily based on those commissioners’ support of PA 88. Showers does not believe PA 88 to be Constitutional, based on Michigan’s own Constitution of 1963.

PA 88 was eventually repealed in Gratiot County. Economic development in that county is now funded by a special voter-approved millage.

Johansen said he has looked into the Gratiot County concerns since mid-December’s meeting. However, he still wants to find a solution for funding local economic development.

“We need to resolve this issue,” he said. “We need economic development in this county. We have to devise how we fund it.”

The public hearing about the proposed property tax increase is set for 1:45 p.m. Monday on the third floor of the Montcalm County Administrative Building (old courthouse) in Stanton.

“I hope that we can have a civil public hearing,” Johansen added.

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