On February 16th, immediately after over 2 hours of public comments against the Special Assessment District (SAD) and/or comments advocating for a PAUSE and full transparency and more information, the New Buffalo Township Board strangely voted unanimously to approve the tax roll without having any board discussion let alone a discussion about pausing to consider the legal fallout of this action. There were over 180 people in attendance. It was obvious that the township board had made their decision prior to the meeting and no input was going to give them pause. Both Michiana and Grand Beach Village Council presidents said during the Zoom meeting that their villages will be taking legal action if the township board voted to proceed.
Shockingly, New Buffalo Township's attorney stated that the township board went "above and beyond" notifying the public. On the contrary, it is hard to understand the lengths the township board has gone and continues to go to hide this from and to confuse taxpayers. It was never discussed in any public meeting the entire year before sending out the first Public Hearing notice in late December. Then the public hearing notices were sent by bulk, non-forwardable mail (not first class mail like all other tax bills are sent). Since the notice went out, the board has been answering questions seemingly to cause confusion. Then they stonewalled the public hearing attendees by not really answering any questions.
Something is just not right with all of this. A PAUSE needs to be placed on this process and the township board needs to provide full disclosure and allow for fulsome study of options. Otherwise, the legal costs are going to add up quickly.
The key issues...
- It's a 20 year commitment. Half of the annual money collected goes to pay for the NBT/Berrien County Sheriff policing contract.
- It gives the NBT board the ability to raise our taxes further simply by a vote of the board for the 20 year length of the Special Assessment.
- It gives up $149,000 per year that New Buffalo Township would have otherwise received from the Casino (almost $3,000,000 over the 20 years).
- Individually for all NBT taxpayers, this increases our taxes by $33/$100,000 value plus it locks in the previous tax of $140/$100,000 which was passed in 2017 with 118 "yes" votes (of about 2,000 registered voters) on a lowly publicized month of May election day.
- The aggregate amount to be collected from Grand Beach & Michiana taxpayers for just the policing component is between $200,000 to $300,000 per year to pay for a police force which does not patrol either village.
- No other township in Michigan has succeeded in including sovereign villages in Special Assessment Districts. Neither Grand Beach nor Michiana will be the first without a protracted legal fight which will cost all township taxpayers regardless of the outcome.
- If Grand Beach and Michiana prevail, the taxpayers of New Buffalo Township in unincorporated areas will have to make up the difference and thus will see even further increases in your taxes.
New Buffalo Township