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MTA Legal Defense win: Any charter township may levy up to first 5 mills of charter millage

Oshtemo Charter Township v. Kalamazoo County and Kalamazoo County Road Commission, ___ Mich. App. ___ (For publication, decided Sept. 30, 2021, Docket No. 355634)—In this MTA Legal Defense Fund amicus curiae case, the Court of Appeals upheld MTA Legal Counsel’s position that a charter township is not limited in the charter millage it can levy based on when or how the township became a charter township.

Section 31 of the Headlee Amendment states that “Units of Local Government are hereby prohibited from levying any tax not authorized by law or charter when this section is ratified or from increasing the rate of an existing tax above that rate authorized by law or charter when this section is ratified, without the approval of a majority of the qualified electors of that unit of Local Government voting thereon.” [Const 1963, Art 9, § 31. Emphasis added]

Attorney General Opinion 6285 of 1985 had stated that a township which incorporated as a charter township by board resolution after Section 31 of the Headlee Amendment took effect on Dec. 22, 1978, was limited to levying only the amount of its general law township millage as its charter millage (that may be levied without a vote of the electors) instead of up to the first 5 mills of the total of 10 mills of charter millage.

However, the Court looked to American Axle & Mfg, Inc v Hamtramck, 461 Mich. 352 (2000), which held that “The plain language of Art 9, § 31, excludes from its scope the levying of a tax, or an increased rate of an existing tax, that was authorized by law when that section was ratified.” [Emphasis added].

The question before the court was “whether petitioner remains limited to the tax rate for general law townships because it was a general law township at the time Headlee was adopted or whether, having later become a charter township, the relevant limit on its taxing authority is the limit applicable to charter townships at the time Headlee was adopted. We conclude that the Attorney General Opinion is inconsistent with later-decided caselaw from the Michigan Supreme Court and that petitioner may levy the charter township millage rate.”

The Court held that, in American Axle, “the Supreme Court approved a line of Section 31 cases from this Court standing for the proposition ‘that the Headlee exemption of taxes authorized by law when the section was ratified permits the levying of previously authorized taxes even where they were not being levied at the time Headlee was ratified and even though the circumstances making the tax or rate applicable did not exist before that date.’ Petitioner argues that this case falls squarely within this formulation of the ‘authorized by law’ exemption. We agree.”

Every Michigan county should mask up indoors

All counties in Michigan are currently in the "high" transmission rate for COVID-19 and local officials should encourage all individuals—regardless of vaccination status—to wear masks in indoor public places to try to quell rapidly increasing spread of the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated mask guidance recommendations. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) is also strongly encouraging Michigan employers—which includes townships—to follow the updated CDC guidelines. MIOSHA also urges employers to adopt the CDC recommendations for vaccinated individuals:
  • Consider masking regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, or if someone in their home is unvaccinated.
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the prior 10 days or are experiencing COVID symptoms.
  • Get tested three to five days after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until they receive a negative test result.

New resources! 

MTA Board of Review and Budget Public Hearing Sample Set offers sample notices, resolutions for virtual meetings, alternate meeting date, poverty exemption and more

New laws and uncertainty about how meetings may be conducted over the next few months is complicating planning for the March board of review and township boards preparing to hold their budget public hearing at the end of an April 1 fiscal year. MTA has prepared a BOR and Budget Public Hearing Sample Set that includes new and updated samples to:

MTA's Board of Review Training meets new state mandate
Starting with the 2021 board of review term of office, all board of review members must complete State Tax Commission-approved training at least once per term (regardless of the amount of time you have served on the board of review). The “Basic” session of MTA's Board of Review Training--being offered virtually in February--meets this new training mandate. Additional sessions, including "Beyond Basics" and "Advanced" allow you to gain additional knowledge. The “Advanced” class has also been approved by the STC for assessor renewal credit. Download a registration form or register online now. Questions about the mandate or participating in the class? Find answers here.