ESCANABA – For the distressed Escanaba residents, it has just become a little tougher to get exempt from property tax.
The changes stem from a state law passed in late December last year that made changes to the way local government units can provide poverty relief. The city’s five-year review of the minimum assessment requirements (AMAR) found that the city’s policy, which has been in effect since 2007, no longer complies with the new law.
The city is not alone. Of the local government units rated by AMAR across the state, 85% had to make changes to comply.
For Escanaba residents, the main change relates to the flexibility built into the old policy that allows residents who may not meet the income guidelines or wealth test to be considered for an exemption if they have other reasons get into difficult times.
“If it was a medical emergency that someone had in a year or had gotten into a difficult time for some reason, we might consider it a ‘compelling reason’ if it was outside of guidelines. We can no longer do that “, said Jim McNeil, City Assessor.
According to the new law, the city was also obliged to make a decision if it wanted to carry exceptions from year to year. In the past, residents who were granted the exemptions had to re-qualify.
“I’d rather see them every year the way they have been before to ensure that applicants qualify when the situation changes.” said McNeil.
The law also provides that partial exemptions must be granted at intervals of 50% or 25%. The city is not authorized to determine further partial exemptions.
The asset level test, which now makes up half of the exemption, has also been changed. The city can no longer include the value of the main residence in the asset test.
In 2020, the city received 12 hardship exemption applications and granted 10. McNeil does not expect any major changes in the number of applicants after the changes.
“I don’t expect it to attract any more applicants. If anything, removing compelling reasons would discourage someone on the border. “ McNeil said, adding that the new policy includes stated amounts for different asset classes, making it even clearer who may or may not qualify.
The directive was unanimously adopted by the Council and is now going to the state for final approval.
In other matters the council
– Approved to move from a part-time position of a community preservation officer to a full-time position given the workload of Code Compliance Inspector Blaine DeGrave. The position, which is under Escanaba Public Safety’s oversight while not being a public safety officer, will assist with rental and fire inspections, as well as complaints about rot, enforcement of parking lots and identification of dangerous buildings.
Escanaba Public Safety Captain Darin Hunter gave a presentation on the position and the statement of duties. The position is currently not filled.
– Approved a compensation offer for excess Midwest Employers employees for the upcoming fiscal year.
– held the first reading of two proposed regulations. The first removes a section from the city’s development code that limits the height of the roofs of buildings, and the second allows more housing options in the inner-city commercial area. Second reading, public hearings and possible adoption for both regulations have been scheduled for the August 5th session.
– Approved the rental of CCI Systems from Iron Mountain at a cost of no more than $ 14,000 and no more than $ 6,000 in additional expenses for rerouting communications lines in the sewer system. The equipment must be relocated in the facility as part of the planned modernization.
– Approved the recruitment and retention of all available contractors duly licensed and insured to install water supply lines as part of the city’s ongoing pipeline replacement project. Contractors are charged a fee of $ 2,800 for half a service – usually just the customer-side service – or $ 5,600 for a full service that includes both the parts of the city and the landowner’s parts.
– Approved closure of part of 13th Avenue South, from Lake Shore Drive to the alley entrance, for a private party on July 9th from 6:00 pm to midnight.
– Went to a closed meeting to discuss a personnel matter with the city attorney.
In addition, Mayor Marc Tall Darin awarded Hunter and Tim Moore, both of whom are retiring from Escanaba Public Safety, deeds of meritorious service. Hunter has served for 22 years and Moore has served for 25 years.
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