Kent Opposes Revenue Sharing Plan

June 25, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Although they didn’t call for a constitutional amendment, Kent County commissioners still went on record as opposing a revenue-sharing plan proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and supported by the Michigan Association of Counties.

The plan would move the billing date for property-tax payments from December to July over the next three years. A third of the tax would be due in July 2005 with the rest due in December. Two-thirds would be due in July 2006 with the other third in December 2006. The entire tax would be due in July 2007.

Most commissioners claimed the date change would result in a property tax increase of 33 percent in each of those three years. Other commissioners said it was simply a shift of the payment date and residents wouldn’t pay any more tax under the new plan than they do under the current one.

Commissioners were also concerned that moving the due date would be a hardship for residents who keep their property-tax payments in escrow accounts.

“You’ve got a real problem explaining this to the people,” said Commissioner Paul Mayhue.

The resolution approved last week, which will be sent to Lansing, opposes the plan and calls for lawmakers to develop a long-term solution to save revenue sharing for counties.

The 83 counties across the state were to have shared in $183 million, with Kent having expected to receive about $10 million of that amount under the current formula.

If lawmakers support the governor’s proposal, some county officials feel that revenue sharing would be “suspended” and others fear it could be lost forever.

“Once the money is gone and it’s out of the budget …,” said Commissioner Dan Koorndyk.

Members of the Finance and Physical Resources Committee first came out against the plan. Without actually voting against it, they arrived at a consensus that it was a bad proposal for both the county and taxpayers.

“Our position was, it’s a clever plan to eliminate revenue sharing all together,” said Kent Commission Vice Chairman Roger Morgan, who chairs the Finance Committee.

“It could totally be eliminated this year with the stroke of a pen. There is no protection for the county in revenue sharing,” said Commission Chairman David Morren.

The new plan calls for revenue sharing payments to “remain in full force and effect.” But it adds that payments to a county “shall be credited by the amount the individual county is able to withdraw funds from the RSRA” (Revenue Sharing Reserve Account), a phrase that some commissioners fear would force counties to compete against each other for the funds.

“In my opinion, what they’re looking to do is to divide and conquer,” said Koorndyk.

The Legislative Committee stopped a resolution that would have called for amending the state constitution to guarantee revenue sharing for counties. Commissioner Jack Horton, a former state legislator, said Lansing lawmakers weren’t likely to support a measure that tied their hands on fiscal matters.

“I think this is the best we’re going to get,” said Commissioner Harold Mast about the state plan, “and we should support it.”    

  

Commissioners ratified the ‘long-term solution’ resolution by a vote of 15-2.

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