hello, MTA ... ? from the February 2020 Township Focus magazine

Written by Bauckham, Sparks, Thall, Seeber, & Kaufman, PC's Attorney Rob Thall, Legal Counsel for the Michigan Townships Association, for the February 2020 issue of the Township Focus magazine.

Our township successfully
operates a joint fire department
with a neighboring township.
We are now interested
in sharing an assessor and jointly
performing our assessing functions.Is this possible?

Yes. Joint assessing is now specifically provided for in
Michigan law by Public Act 660 of 2018. PA 660 was
primarily enacted to reform local property tax assessment
procedures in an attempt to improve property tax assessment
administration and the accuracy of property tax assessments.
The act introduces a new term called an “assessing district,”
which is defined as a city, township or joint assessing
authority. (MCL 211.10g(5)(b))
With this new definition, your townships are now
statutorily authorized to establish a joint assessing authority
to carry out the assessing functions in your townships.
PA 660 does not, however, provide any specifics regarding
establishment of a joint assessing authority. It is MTA Legal
Counsel’s opinion that the joint assessing authority would
be established through an intergovernmental agreement,
much like your joint fire department. The agreement would
establish a joint assessing authority board comprised of
representatives from each of the townships. The authority
board would then be responsible to oversee that the
townships’ property tax assessment functions are carried out
properly in compliance with legal requirements and State Tax
Commission (STC) guidelines.
The agreement establishing the joint assessing authority
should address things such as authority board voting
rights, the division of costs between the townships, capital
needs, budgetary approval process, insurance coverage and
indemnity, STC compliance, hiring of employees and the
shared assessor, the process to add other cities and townships
to the authority, and division of assets upon termination.
MTA Legal Counsel suggest that the township supervisor
be one of the members of the authority board to the extent
that they are not the designated assessor, as MCL 41.61 still
provides that the supervisor is the chief assessing officer of
the township.
The joint assessing authority would also be subject to
the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information
Act. Finally, it should be noted that assessing districts will
be subject to certain audit requirements under PA 660
beginning in 2020.

If our township does establish
a joint assessing authority,
do we still have to operate
individual boards of review?

As part of assessing reform in PA 660, your townships may
alternately establish a single board of review. This can be
established regardless of whether your townships have a joint
assessing authority. MCL 211.28(6) provides that:
“The governing bodies of two or more contiguous cities
or townships may, by agreement, appoint a single board of
review to serve as the board of review for each of those cities
or townships for the purposes of this act. The provisions in
subsections (1) to (5) should serve as a guide in determining
the size, composition, and manner of appointment of a board
of review appointed under this subsection.”
This new provision would allow your townships to have a
written agreement regarding the establishment and operation
of this single board of review for both communities. The
agreement should address the appointment of regular and
alternate members of the board of review, the number of
board members, and their term of office. Townships should
review MCL 211.28(1)-(5) with regard to the restrictions in
these regards. It is MTA Legal Counsel’s understanding that
the townships would be looked at as a single area with regard
to board of review membership.
The agreement should also address where the board of
review will be meeting and/or how this determination will
be made. Additionally, the agreement needs to address
termination, which supervisor will be the secretary of the
board of review, and how administrative activities including
required notices will be handled.
It is further our understanding that if you wanted to add
other municipalities by agreement to this single board of
review, this can be done as long as they are contiguous to one
of the current contiguous local units. Contiguous requires
that the municipalities must touch, which could include only
at a corner point.
This single board of review option is just that: an option.
Your townships will continue to operate your own board of
reviews until such time as your township boards decide to
create the single board of review.

Is our board of review required
by the property tax reform act
to have special training?

PA 660 contains new statutory provisions
requiring the STC to develop and implement an audit
program to determine, among other things, that the board of
review members receive board of review training and updates

required and approved by the commission. (MCL 211.10g)

Your board of review is now required to have proper
training; however, the audit program does not go into effect
until 2022. The required training of your board of review will
help ensure that the board of review is performing the proper
oversight over the certified tax roll and properly carrying
out its duties required by law. Through better training, the
accuracy of property tax assessments should be improved.
Some townships are considering joining together and using
a single board of review to help share the cost of these new
board of review training requirements

Hello, MTA ... ? provides general information on typical questions asked by
township officials. Readers are encouraged to contact an attorney when
specific legal guidance is needed.

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