MAC prez: Bring ‘dark stores’ problem to a halt

MAC President Jon Campbell is an Allegan County commissioner.

MAC President Jon Campbell is an Allegan County commissioner.

MAC President Jon Campbell took to the pages of the Detroit Free Press today (May 29) to draw more attention to the growing crisis presented to local government services by the “dark stores” property tax technique:

“This gaming of the system, known in tax circles as the ‘dark stores’ technique, must come to a halt before counties and communities across Michigan are stripped of the resources to operate basic public services.

“Here’s how it works: Lawyers for the retailers convinced the Michigan Tax Tribunal, an unelected panel with jurisdiction over property tax appeals, to drop the traditional method of valuing such property based on the cost to construct a store, and instead, they convinced the tribunal to set values based on ‘comparable sales.’ These comparable sales, however, are few and far between in the world of big box retailing, which means comparisons are often to vacant structures or buildings that have been converted to unusual or non-retailing uses.

“Retailers may also use deed restrictions to ensure that when they upgrade to a new or larger facility, their old facility can’t be purchased and utilized by a competing retailer, resulting in more boarded-up buildings in our communities.”

MAC, led by Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth, has been working closely with key legislators, such as Sen. Tom Casperson, and other government officials to craft a legislative fix to the dark stores problem.

Treasury releases county-by-county liquor tax estimates

Liquor-StoreThe Michigan Department of Treasury reports that liquor tax distributions to counties will decline to $49.88 million in fiscal 2016, from $73.75 million in fiscal 2015.

The 4 percent liquor tax that gets distributed to counties across the state is set to expire at the end of 2015. Back in 2008, the Legislature refinanced the Cobo Hall facility in Detroit and extended the liquor tax. As part of that package of bills, counties would still receive the liquor tax, but would be limited to receiving only that amount that was collected in their county. Currently the liquor taxes collected in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties are distributed to the rest of the counties. In essence, the liquor taxes collected in those three counties have subsidized the amounts to the rest of the state. In FY 2015, those 80 counties are receiving approximately 200 percent of the liquor taxes actually paid in their jurisdictions.

For FY16, Treasury says, “The 80 ‘out-state’ counties will receive 101 percent of the FY 15 liquor tax collections in their county. Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne share 101 percent of the FY 15 liquor tax collections in the three counties, which is estimated to be a slight increase compared to their estimated FY 15 distribution. Macomb and Oakland counties get a portion of the liquor taxes collected in Detroit.”

To see the county-by-county figures, click here.

MAC still sees simple, direct election on 1-cent sales tax boost as best way to address roads crisis

transport funds 10-17-14The Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) reiterated today its longstanding support for a statewide vote to increase the sales tax by 1 penny, with all new funds generated dedicated to road work.

Jon Campbell, president of the MAC Board of Directors and an Allegan County commissioner, said in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat of Proposal 1:

“Voters in Michigan are telling public servants three things: They want more money for our crumbling roads. They want a direct, simple plan. They want to ensure new revenue is dedicated to roads.

“More than a year ago, the MAC Board of Directors decided the best plan for our state was a 1-penny increase in the sales tax dedicated to roads. We still see it as a simple, direct approach that raises the funds to address the crisis. And, based on the EPIC-MRA poll results released May 5, nearly two-thirds of voters would support it.

“Our membership, 622 county commissioners across the state, is eager to work with the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder to quickly and decisively handle this challenge.”

State offers grant funds for county veteran benefits jobs

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency is now accepting grant applications to fund new staff positions in counties to assist military veterans with benefit claims.

Under provisions of Public Act 252 of 2014, funds will be distributed with preference to counties that have not previously established a veteran services office or department.

Grant amounts will run from $3,000 to $20,000. See the filing instructions for complete details.

Click here to access a copy of the application cover sheet.

For additional information on the grants program, contact the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency at 800-MICH-VET.