Friday, May 26, 2006

Brighton Fire chief concerned about millage's fate

We have eight tax questions on the ballot this fall in Livingston County. One of the more controversial will be the Brighton Fire Authority. Former County Commissioner Dave Hamiliton is strongly opposing this. He's the chair of the Livingston Taxpayers Association.

Is Marty DeLoach, chief of the Brighton Area Fire Authority, worried about seeking a quarter-mill increase for fire services?
You betcha.

Many people are struggling in this down economy, and this isn't the ideal time to up the millage — even if the .25-mill increase only means an additional $25 per year for the owner of a $200,000 home, or a $50 increase for the owner of $400,000 home.

Does DeLoach firmly believe this increase for a five-year-period is needed for the department to continue to provide quality services and replace old equipment?


Hamilton said the following.

Hamilton said if the Brighton authority is successful in getting a millage increase, other fire authorities in the county will do the same.

"Birds of a feather flock together," Hamilton said.

Using 2006 property tax values, Hamilton said the increase millage would boost the authority's revenues by 40 percent. The department's revenues would jump from $2.2 million to almost $3.2 million. His figures were based on taxable values provided by the Livingston County Equalization Department, and he provided an analysis to the Daily Press & Argus and DeLoach.

"He doesn't need any increase now," Hamilton said.

We're going to keep an eye on all of the tax questions on the ballot. The Concerned Taxpayers Group will be active in one or more of them. Hamilton's going to be active in at least one with his organization. All in all, it should make for an interesting August.


Anonymous said...

One big problem with using property taxes to finance local government is that it puts the overwhelming burden on people who choose to live in houses over people who choose to live in other forms of housing. The average homeowner pays about 4 to 5 times more property taxes than are paid on behalf of families who live in apartments or mobile homes.

It is fundamentally unfair to force just one segment of the population to carry most of the load for roads, police and fire departments, libraries, parks, and schools. High property taxes also push the dream of home ownership out of the reach of many lower income people. It is hard enough to make the average house payment these days but the extra few hundred dollars per month that home buyers have to pay in taxes for escrow is often a deal killer.

We need to seriously look at alternative methods of funding local government. Obviously any action on this issue will have to be taken at the state level. But the legislature could look at substituting a tax on vehicle registrations (just about everyone except very low income people own cars) which could be scaled downward on older cars to help lower income people. Another possibility would be to just eliminate income and property taxes altogether and replace them with a value added tax. In any case, we need to stop singling out homeowners for punishment every time local governments want to raise more money for something.

RKG said...

Two points. First, homeowners are net users of local government services. The taxes they pay do not cover the cost of services consumed. That's why communities want and need a tax base that includes industrial and commercial. Those taxpayers subsidize the services consumed by homeowners. Therefore, be careful of what you ask for. You just might get it.

Second, I served on the Brighton Fire Board as it was making it's transition from departments of the City of Brighton and Brighton Township to an independant entity. Part of the deal was that the operating budget of the combined departments was not to exceed one million dollars. I think we all understood that it was going to grow over time, especailly once Genoa Township was folded in, but it bothers me to see a budget that has more than doubled is not enough. I think the department has the burden of proof to show they need more money and cannot function on what they have. Until then, I'm on the no vote side of this issue.