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Millage proposed for DDA district

April 28, 2010 by WLKM 

The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has taken a compromise approach to levying millage on properties in the DDA district.

In action during a special meeting Tuesday morning (April 27th), the DDA Board voted to recommend to the Three Rivers City Commission that one mill be levied throughout the entire DDA district – both the original district in the immediate downtown and in areas along South Main Street and West Michigan Avenue that were added when the district was expanded in 2002. City Manager Joe Bippus abstained after Tom Meyer expressed concern that, because of his close association with the commission, Bippus’s vote could influence them to vote one way or the other.

In a subsequent action, the board also adopted a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year that incorporates the one-mill levy in the entire DDA district. The budget will be recommended to the city commission for approval in the process to adopt the city’s overall budget for Fiscal Year 2011 that begins July 1st.

The millage and budget decisions came in response to indications from state officials at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), State Tax Commission and the Treasury Department that a uniform millage rate throughout the entire district is required under the Michigan Constitution and the act governing DDAs.

Michael O’Connor, an attorney retained by the DDA to deal with the millage issue, said the group “went to a variety of sources to get an interpretation of the statute and the interpretation is consistent.” He added, “I think you’ve done all that’s necessary.”

During a post-meeting interview, O’Connor said, “It is clear that the millage is supposed to be uniform and a good rationale for it is that the DDA was created to address all kinds of economic issues in the entire district and this millage funds the DDA for that purpose so it only seems – from a practical point of view – fair that everyone within the district who benefits from the DDA, either directly or indirectly, should pay the tax, and our constitution and the DDA act make that clear – that taxes, when imposed upon a group, should be imposed uniformly rather than otherwise.”

Bippus said, “I’m satisfied we have the right opinion. We know what the rules are. We know what the law is. I’m very comfortable where we’re at.”

DDA Chairperson Donna Grubbs agreed and said, “I think we’ve got a multitude of different people we’ve asked and they’ve all had the same consensus and it boils down to we just have to equalize this taxation.”

A public hearing during the DDA’s regular monthly meeting on April 15th yielded a variety of opinions on the millage issue, including several calls to dissolve the expanded district, and prompted the board to table the matter pending the receipt of further information from the state.

Meyer said the board needed to “take seriously” the objections about the millage during the hearing and suggested the one-mill compromise that was characterized by Grubbs as “revenue neutral.” Property owners in the original district have paid two mills for many years while no millage has been levied in the expansion area.

Regarding the one-mill approach, Meyer said, “I think we can squeeze by for a year and see how it looks and revisit it again next year, leaving the option open to kick it up if we need the additional money.”

DDA Executive Director Christy Trammell provided board members with a handout outlining “DDA Benefits.”

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