Street Talk

Street Talk: A re-assessment

Culture club.

May 25, 2018
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Legislation making its way through the Michigan Legislature claims to improve the property tax assessment process for homeowners and other landowners across Michigan through municipal cooperation and a defined set of standards.

That would be a relief.

Rep. Jim Lower, R-Cedar Lake, said the proposal is designed to improve the consistency and quality of assessments. The plan outlines minimum quality standards each assessing government must meet, either on its own or in cooperation with another local government unit.

Lower said he is teaming up with Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration — including Treasurer Nick Khouri — and state Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, to advance the proposal.

“The amount of money paid in taxes and the assessed value of property play a huge role in determining a homeowner’s overall financial situation,” said Lower, who introduced legislation in the House. “Property tax assessments are far too important to leave to chance, and right now, we have a system with too many inconsistencies — even within the same county. Our plan creates the uniform standards necessary to ensure homeowners, and all property owners, are treated fairly. These changes will have lasting benefits for everyone involved.”

The reforms preserve local control options while implementing basic best practices throughout the state, he said. A goal is to provide resources for training and startup costs.

Local government units that meet the outlined standards could continue assessing property on their own. Local governments also could share assessors or have their counties provide assessment services. Regardless of which unit does the assessing, Lower said, certain standards must be met to ensure quality and consistency.

Assessors would be required to meet defined criteria and would have an opportunity for mentoring and career development. Governments handling assessment functions must meet standards for office hours and staffing levels, technological tools and other vital thresholds to ensure quality, Lower said. With three specialized boards of review, taxpayers would have better options to appeal their property tax assessments, he added.

“As a former township and county official, I know the importance of having an accurate assessment system, and I look forward to working with those in the field to get it right for the long-term benefit of both taxpayers and our communities,” said Stamas, sponsor of the Senate legislation. “The goal is to ensure accurate, uniform and equitable assessments throughout the state and maintain local decisions on how to best perform assessing duties. This is just the start of the process.”

Khouri said he is willing to consider the proposal.

“I’m looking forward to working with the legislature and our local government partners throughout the summer to improve assessing quality and consistency,” he said.

Window dressing

Woodland Mall clearly is excited to bring new retail offerings to shoppers next fall.

The mall recently installed a 24-foot-by-26-foot wall graphic featuring the new extension of the mall’s west side once Sears comes down and Von Maur moves into its new space in fall 2019.

Woodland Mall Marketing Director Lyndsey Hicks said the Sears demolition should wrap up within the next couple of weeks, and Von Maur will start mobilizing with its new, smaller building sometime in June.

“It’s really going to get hot and heavy through summer and fall,” she said. “Last summer, we repaved the east side of the mall, and we’re working on paving the west side right now.”

As a bonus, shoppers get a front-row seat to the action. The mall has installed three viewing windows within the wall graphic for visitors to sit in on the demolition and reconstruction from inside the mall.

The windows also are low enough to the ground for children to be able to watch.

Sears is leaving behind 313,000 square feet, only 90,000 square feet of which will be taken by Von Maur. Woodland Mall owner PREIT, a real estate investment trust out of Philadelphia, previously has hinted at plans to deliver more restaurants and smaller scale tenants as space opens up.

Hicks did not specify when these additional tenants will be announced.

Stage presence

The Grand Rapids Pride Center announced the final headliner of the 30th annual Grand Rapids Pride Festival.

The third headliner is En Vogue, one of the top 10 female groups in history, according to the Billboard charts.

The festival is scheduled for noon-10 p.m. June 16, at Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids.

En Vogue will perform with the other two headliners, David Hernandez and Betty Who.

Hernandez is a singer-songwriter who was a top-12 finalist on season seven of “American Idol” and has performed on “The Ellen Show,” “The Today Show,” MTV's “TRL,” “Entertainment Tonight” and at the Teen Choice Awards.

Betty Who is an Australian singer-songwriter best known for her 2016 single, “I Love You Always Forever.” She recently released a new album, “The Valley,” and is in the middle of a national tour.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $50 for VIP. They can be purchased online at grpride.org/festival or the day of the event.

All proceeds from the event will support the Pride Center.

‘Winning’ talent

A business networking event on the lakeshore next month will focus on how to “win” at attracting and retaining talent by creating an appealing company culture.

The third annual Muskegon Business Resource Connect is set for 8-11 a.m. June 12, at the Muskegon Innovation Hub, 200 Viridian Drive in downtown Muskegon.

The event is sponsored by the Muskegon Business Resource Team (BRT), comprised of 18 local, regional and state business support organizations that work together to help local businesses.

Rob Ptacek, president and CEO at Competitive Edge Training and Consulting in Allegan, will be the keynote speaker. He will discuss “winning” at recruitment and retention through company culture.

“This will be the BRT’s third Business Resource Connect, which gives business leaders an informal networking environment to learn more about and engage with business resource partners,” said Darryl Todd, interim president and CEO of Muskegon Area First.

“BRT partners serve businesses in all stages, from the ideation all the way through to mature companies.”

Part of the event’s strength is its varied participants.

“MCC is a proud member of the Business Resource Team and identifies the need to streamline resources available to businesses,” said Cyndi Langlois, associate dean of workforce and talent development at Muskegon Community College.

BRT focuses on topics such as obtaining a skilled workforce, entrepreneurial development and business growth and expansion. BRT partner services include business planning, employee training and recruitment, business expansion resources, support for exporting, human resource management issues, government contracting, funding sources, entrepreneurial resources and a variety of other services, many of which are free to the businesses.

Free and open to the public, the event has limited seating. Those interested must register by visiting eventbrite.com and searching for Muskegon Business Resource Connect.

For more information, contact Todd at dtodd@muskegonareafirdt.org, or Dawn Johnson, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, at (231) 722-3751.

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