(Editor’s Note: Peninsula Township Supervisor Rob Manigold responds to the editorial recently published on Old Mission Gazette by the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula … -jb)
Recently, the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) submitted an editorial to Old Mission Gazette that included some interesting statistics and misstatements (read the editorial here). Retired U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.” This statement encapsulates the wineries’ editorial to Old Mission Gazette dated November 2, 2021.
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Indeed, the authors of the editorial naively argue that the Township agreed to settle this matter referencing alleged statements made by Mediator Joseph Quandt and Township Attorney Gregory M. Meihn. In the spirit of continued transparency, the Township waived its confidentiality privilege of the communications it had with the mediator, which allowed the mediator to issue a letter dated November 1, 2021, providing the following statement:
“As we discussed, and fully relying on the privilege waiver you have provided, with respect to the issue of mediation settlement preconditions, I can confirm that you and your client made it clear to me throughout the mediation process that any final acceptance of a Mediation Settlement Agreement would need to be approved by the full Peninsula Township Board, consistent with requirements under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.”
Read the entire letter here. It is interesting to note that WOMP has not waived its confidential privilege that would allow the mediator to disclose to the public what was said to WOMP by the mediator. What is WOMP concealing?
As to the alleged statement by the Township attorney, no such comment was made. Most telling on this issue is the opening statement that the Township attorney made at the October 6, 2021 Township Board meeting when he stated, to all in attendance, that at the end of the meeting, the board would go into closed session to either approve, reject, or propose a counterproposal to the settlement proposal. This is hardly a statement of agreement by the Township. You can view this meeting in its entirety at Peninsula Township’s YouTube channel here.
Further, the first speaker at the meeting was WOMP’s attorney. At no point did he state an agreement had already been reached. Quite the opposite, as he stated WOMP had signed the settlement agreement and was ready to move forward. Clearly, he recognized the issue was up for decision by the full board.
Second, whether by accident or design, the assertion that the wineries own 8% of the total acreage in Peninsula Township and pay 18.2% of the total township tax is wholly inaccurate and analytically flawed.
In examining the total acreage owned by the eleven wineries (approximately 1,498 acres), it is important to observe that the authors of the editorial appear to be including both business and personal real estate holdings. In addition, one of the eleven winery operators owns in excess of 520 acres. Singularly, this ownership represents about 35% of the collective winery holdings. This significant statistical outlier, if removed, would reveal that the ten remaining wineries own a significantly smaller percentage of land than they claim to own.
Further, the claim that the wineries pay 18.2% of the total township property tax is patently false. In an area renowned for cherry picking, the authors did just that! First, in order to understand the fallacy behind their accounting, one must have a basic understanding of property tax collection. Property taxes are generated by levying millages against taxable values, and there are multiple millages levied for various entities (schools, counties, road commissions, police and fire, library, operating, etc.). What many people find surprising is that only a very small amount of taxes collected actually stay in the local unit.
By way of example, Peninsula Township retains only 4.5736 of the max 44.7712 mills levied. In their use of the “township audit report page 7,” the authors of the editorial generated their inaccurate 18% by comparing their entire tax paid to the fractional local amount received by the Township. The correct corresponding winery share of the $3,532,923 cited is about $88,000. In other words, the wineries pay only 2.5% of the total tax revenue ($88,000/$3,532,923), not 18.2%.
Of further interest, only one winery made it into the “Top Ten Largest Taxpayer” list this fiscal year. The two utilities (DTE Gas and Consumers Energy) topped the list; the remaining eight taxpayers on the list were private residences.
Finally, below is an excerpt from the Peninsula Township assessing/tax database. From an aggregate standpoint, it is clear that the residential class comprises the majority (95%) of the township’s taxable value. The agricultural and commercial classes combined make up the remaining 5%. Understanding that the wineries do not make up the entirety of the agricultural or commercial class further supports the fact that the portion of total tax revenue they pay is somewhere between 2.5% and 5%.
We hope this response brings needed clarity to the issues raised in the editorial. Everyone, including WOMP, is entitled to their opinions on the issues confronting Peninsula Township, but no one is entitled to their own set of facts. With the creation of the citizens’ committee to settle the lawsuit and thereafter work to improve the Township’s ordinances, the board’s commitment to include the citizens in the governmental process continues unabated.
Rob Manigold, Supervisor, Peninsula Township