County to help Montcalm with assessments

April 2, 2012
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While a separate work group created by the county is looking into how local governments can work together more closely, Kent County commissioners recently approved an agreement that results in just that.

The county’s equalization department will provide assessment services for Montcalm County. Montcalm needed someone who is a state-certified assessment officer to oversee its department, and Kent County Equalization Director Matt Woolford has that special certification. “Reaching out to Kent County is a cost effective thing for them to do,” said Woolford.

Montcalm, which has an assessment staff, will pay the county $65,000 for Woolford’s assistance. The money will be paid in two installments and will come from its general fund rather than a separate tax levy.

Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller, said the agreement is the equivalent of a one-year pilot program. “We don’t do this on a continuing basis,” he said. “We only do it when it’s requested.”

When the program expires next year, Woolford will advise Montcalm on what it should do next. “We will be involved directly in their commercial and industrial (assessments),” he said.

Michigan law allows counties to share services through collaborative efforts.

“I don’t know if the state is aware that counties cooperate. I know Montcalm doesn’t have the resources we do,” said Commissioner Stan Ponstein.

Commissioners also gave Kent County Treasurer Kenneth Parrish the green light to sell limited tax notes to fund the department’s delinquent tax revolving fund. It is action the board has taken every year since 1973. Proceeds from the annual sale are used to buy the unpaid real property tax bills from the county’s 30 cities and townships.

The commission authorized a sale of up to $40 million this year. Last year, $32 million in notes were sold. Parrish’s office charges an administrative fee and interest to cover any costs associated with the sale.

Commissioners also told the Kent Hospital Finance Authority it could issue, sell and deliver up to $30 million worth of revenue bonds on behalf of Metro Health, which will use the proceeds to buy a power plant that services its Metro Village campus in Wyoming. The bond package was approved last year but with a $27 million limit, and the hospital may need to borrow more than that amount to purchase the plant.

Commission Chairwoman Sandi Frost Parrish will lead a team to New York in a few weeks to meet with Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poors to present their case to keep the county’s bond rating at the gold standard.

Last year, the county earned its 13th consecutive triple-A rating — one of only 48 counties nationwide that received top ratings from both of the agencies.

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