HARBERT – After listening to a presentation by Township Assessor Toni Swisher during their Aug. 8 meeting, members of the Chikaming Township Board voted unanimously to approve a motion granting her request to have staffers from her SWMI Assessing LLC go out and collect the field data necessary for parcels that have been identified as the subject of omitted value.

The tentative schedule for the data collection work specifies that the township will be invoiced on the fourth week of each month for the service, and the total for 51 weeks, if that amount of work is deemed necessary, would be $31,250.

During her presentation Swisher said that the physical coverage necessary and the conjunctive administrative responsibility associated with this kind of workload was beyond the scope of work that she and her part-time assistant in training, Sabina Kotov, would be capable of doing.

Swisher said that there were a total of 785 permits in need of audit, and that the staffers would go out to visit properties, take photos, and perhaps do some measurements.

“The result of my initial ‘quick’ review indicates that omissions and inclusions of value specifically related to new construction, additions/modifications and demolitions is numerous,” she stated. “Primarily, you have a significant amount of taxable value that is omitted from the tax roll.”

She said that Chikaming, on average, issues 196 Building Permits per year, and all those must be reviewed by an on-site visit.

“Property exemption audits will continue until all tax-exempt parcels are accounted for, and, simultaneously, an audit of permits issued beginning with the year 2015 has begun,” Swisher said. “In addition to an ongoing sale/transfer verification, the State Tax Commission expects an annual reassessment of at least 20 percent of the total parcel count within the township for a grand total of 643 parcel visits, and taking into consideration permit properties and sale/transfer properties already inspected, that leaves 197 parcel visits left to be made.”

She estimated there may be hundreds of properties in the township that are currently under-assessed, and that figure may include some new houses that are currently not on the tax roll.

Treasurer Liz Rettig said that she felt the cost of hiring the staffers to do the necessary field work should at least balance out with what the township would garner in additional property tax revenue.

“When it is explained to property owners who have added value to their homes that needs to be reflected in their property taxes, most of them are understanding,” Swisher said.

She said she would be available to give the Board members updates on how the two or three field staffers were progressing with their work.

In other business, after discussion on the subject the Board members voted unanimously to adopt the federal government’s LEP (Limited English Proficient) plan guidelines necessary because the township is the recipient of federal funds.

Among other things, Chikaming Township’s staff will be provided training on the requirements for providing meaningful access to services for LEP persons, and that access would include contacting a translator from the USDA’a Translator’s Resource List to determine the specifics of written correspondence; and to also make use of a translator to determine the language of a phone caller being spoken, and to proceed with providing the requested service to that individual in a timely manner.

Also on the agenda, there was also unanimous consent on a motion to accept an offer of $80,000 for the purchase of a vacant parcel approximately nine acres in size owned by the township on Three Oaks Road. That sale is contingent on the owners selling the property they currently own.

Reserve Police Officer Jim Wisely received a plaque from Chikaming Township Police Chief Todd Taylor for enhancing the lives of the young people in the community through his work with students at the River Valley Middle/High School.

Finally, the designated discussion topic for the evening was finding ways to attract more full-time residents to the community.

Suggestions included upgrading internet and cable services in the area, and providing more affordable housing.

Teacher Shelly Taylor, who is also a member of the Park Board, said that many of her colleagues travel long distances to teach here, and they’d welcome the opportunity to relocate here if it was more affordable to do so.

Supervisor David Bunte concurred, commenting that the township could become a trendsetter for finding ways to better support the teachers, brewery workers and others who work in the community and would like to reside here with their families.

“I believe it can be done, but we just need the will to do it,” Bunte stated.

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