Higher tax bills could kill tax proposals

It’s a bittersweet thing, we suppose.

Houses, much in demand in Northeast Michigan, are selling like hot cakes. Often — usually, perhaps — houses are going for more than the asking price.

That drives up the prices of other homes around the area and drives up the values of homes not for sale.

Higher market values equals higher taxable values.

Higher taxable values equals higher tax bills, even if the tax rate stays the same.

The taxable value of homes and businesses across Alpena County climbed by about 5%, Alpena County Assessor Ted Somers told News staff writer Steve Schulwitz for a recent story.

Here’s how that affects you:

Let’s say your house in Alpena was worth $200,000 in 2023. That would make your taxable value about $100,000. If you lived outside the Alpena Downtown Development Authority district (as most Alpenans do), you paid 38.9455 mills in state and local property taxes on that $100,000, for a total tax bill of about $3,895.

This year, your house might be worth about $210,000, making your taxable value about $105,000 and your tax bill on 38.9455 mills of property tax $4,089, or about $194 more, even though the tax rate stayed the same.

But the Alpena County Board of Commissioners doesn’t want the tax rate to stay the same.

They want voters to approve a so-called “Headlee rollup” property tax hike of about 0.7 mills to reclaim revenue lost through what’s known as a “Headlee rollback,” a reference to a state law that automatically lowers local governments’ tax rates if the growth in property value exceeds the rate of inflation.

If that Headlee rollup proposal passes, the taxes on your $210,000 house would go up another $77, making the total amount of additional taxes you pay in 2024 about $271.

That’s at least a good chunk of a trip to the grocery store, right there.

The Headlee rollup proposal would raise about $800,000 for county government and help commissioners dig the county budget out of a more than $1 million deficit without going too deep into the county’s dwindling savings or having to severely cut services.

But that may not matter much to Alpena County residents already having to dig further into their own dwindling savings to pay their tax bills.

A number of tax renewals — including the countywide property tax that funds ambulance services and another countywide tax that funds the county library — also will come up this year.

Alpena County residents, already paying more at the grocery store and the gas station and everywhere else because of inflation, and now paying higher tax bills even if they deny the county its requested tax increase because of higher property values, may not be in a very giving mood when they head to the ballot box later this year.

Alpena County commissioners asked county staff to prepare two 2024 budgets: One that factors in the tax increase, and one that doesn’t.

County staff need to work diligently to get that done.

The budget without the tax increase might be needed.


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