Fall Colors on Center Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
Fall Colors on Center Road by Old Mission Flowers/Ladd Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
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(Editor’s Note: The Peninsula Township Board is hosting a special informational meeting on Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at St. Joseph Catholic Church to discuss the idea of the township switching from a “general township” to a “charter township.” Township attorneys from Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes will be present to discuss the pros and cons, and all residents are encouraged to attend. If you can’t make it to the meeting, it will be available for viewing on the Township’s YouTube channel. Click here for some information from the Michigan Townships Association, and read on for OMP resident Curt Peterson’s thoughts on the matter. -jb)

We Old Mission Peninsula residents are encouraged to attend an open meeting on Sept. 7 at St. Joseph Catholic Church to discuss changing our form of governance from “General Township” to “Charter Township.” All should attend, as this is an open discussion with dialogue back and forth.

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How we govern with fair “rule of law” for all residents is most important for the future of Peninsula Township government. Please come prepared with knowledge. Look up results of the 10 percent of Michigan Townships that have converted to Charter status. Has it worked for them and what are the pluses and minuses?

What are the differences? A charter township is most like Traverse City, whereby a manager is hired by a city board (or in our case, by a township board) and is responsible to the mayor and board. He/she is employed by them exclusively and is not elected or directly responsible to the residents, but certainly is interested in conducting business in response to our elected township board members’ management and wishes. In our case, he/she would report to our supervisor and township board.

The possible benefits are that a manager can make quick decisions and does not have to wait for planning commission or township board approval on many matters that are vetted in township zoning ordinance, township police powers, or township board actions. Faster government, right or wrong, could prevail.

The bottom line on governance is that the top position would not be elected by us, but would have oversight from our supervisor and township board. This person would come to us with credentials from education and vetted experience and be hired by our township board.

Again, though, he/she is not our direct representative. So, a large question is whether we want the top position to be unelected and not be directly responsible to us.

We have seen how this has worked out for Traverse City. The manager was recently fired for an undisclosed action or poor performance. Similarly, the city manager of Elk Rapids was forced to resign. This position seems to take a lot of the power out of the hands of elected officials, and does not seem appropriate for us.

There are also possible implications for increased tax dollars. Obviously, we have the yearly cost of the new manager salary/benefits/and separation agreements. That could be minor, though, compared to taxes. Charter townships are not subject to the same Michigan State constitutional tax limitations as our current “General Law” township. Taxes could go up.

A 2021 decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals, against the opinion of Attorney General Dana Nessel, held that Oshtemo Charter Township in Kalamazoo County was allowed to levy an additional tax of 5 mills without a vote of the electorate. Presently, as a general law township, the tax limitation is 1 mill.

We need to understand the tax implications of converting to a charter township. If a 5 mill increase was implemented, what does that mean for us? An estimate for an OMP property, on average, is $750 additional taxes per year. To calculate your exact situation, look at your assessment and divide it by 1000, then multiply by $5. That is how much your tax bill could go up.

Could our newly appointed manager suggest a rate increase? Yes, he/she could. And for what reason? To cover additional Peninsula Township expenses? Legal fees from all the lawsuits? Are you comfortable with allowing additional taxes that are not voted on by the electorate of Peninsula Township?

Again, a general law township — which is our current designation — can tax at a maximum of 1 mill. At the present time, the court has allowed Oshtemo Charter Township this increase, despite the disagreement with our attorney general. So, a township manager could initiate a 4 mill tax increase without a vote of the people.

Let’s say no to this conversion.

-Curt Peterson, Peninsula Township Resident

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9 COMMENTS

  1. The changes you outline are very concerning to me and should be to others. First of all the town voters should be asked via a referendum if they agree to this. Or the town should just drop the idea. No town is required to take action on this matter.
    With regard to taxes, my property for example has a current taxable value of $154,089. Multiplying that 154 by $5 means my tax bill will go up by $770. And then go up every year thereafter as my taxable basis increases. This would amount to nearly a 30% increase in my summer tax bill if it were added at that time. Again look at your tax bill to find this out.
    Add this to the 1 mil already charged for an administrative fee to collect our taxes. So I, for example, will pay the township $154 next year for the privilege of paying my taxes. And every year thereafter it will also go up as my taxable basis goes up.. By the way that money should only be used to collect taxes. Has anyone given us a breakdown of the costs to collect our taxes? Shouldn’t we get a refund if the revenue exceeds costs? We need to know. Thankfully the taxable value is limited by state law. Otherwise we would be in worse financial shape. I feel bad for people who bought property in the past few years. They will really be hit hard.
    As a side note that 5 mill charge can be increased to up to 10 mills later on but fortunately that needs the consent of the voters.
    The other power they have is to create their own police force. While some may view this is a good thing do we really need our own police force with all its attendant costs. Pensions, health care costs etc etc.
    The other issue is if we had a town manager would the supervisor’s salary be reduced since his duties would be placed on the shoulder of the town manager.

  2. Hello. My name is Sharon Vreeland. I have some expertise in this area, as I served as the Manager for Acme Township (a general law township, I will observe) for 8 years from 2005-2013. My mother is a township resident who asked me for my input and perspective.

    I understand Mr. Peterson’s concerns. However he has slightly mis-stated some facts in his piece. Along with my own experience as a local Township Manager I would point anyone interested to the following resources from the Michigan Townships Associaiton:

    1. An article about townships and the differences between the two types: https://michigantownships.org/about-townships/mi-twps/

    2. A copy of the statute about Superintendents (not managers…more on that in a minute) who serve Charter Townships: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(ozw3wwomkx2qgjfd3nar41j1))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectName=mcl-42-10

    3. A copy of the statute about Township Managers: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(gt3byei21qp1q2ssg5tdsuyi))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-41-75a&highlight=township

    While recognizing Mr. Peterson’s concerns about level of control over an unelected official and possible millage increases, I believe it’s important to be precise about the situation so everyone can make an informed decision. I therefore submit the following facts for your consideration:

    1. Mr. Peterson asserts that the closest analog to a charter township near us is the City of Traverse City. This is incorrect. Garfield Township is a Charter Township.

    2. Mr. Peterson leads the reader to believe that a Charter Township MUST hire a manager. There are several inaccuracies here:
    A. As demonstrated by the links provided above any my own personal experience, ANY GENERAL LAW TOWNSHIP may appoint a manager.
    B. As demonstrated by the links provided above, Charter Townships may appoint a Superintendent, not a manager.
    C. No township, Charter or general law, is required to employ a manager or a superintendent. Garfield Charter Township here in Grand Traverse County does not employ one.

    3. Mr. Peterson asserts that if the township changes from general law to charter that they may levy an ADDITONAL 5 mills. This is close, but incorrect. General law townships may levy 1 mill. Charter Townships May levy up to 5 mills, not 6 as implied by the article, without a vote of the people. Mr. Peterson also omits that Charter Townships may go as far as 10 mills total, but can only go beyond 5 mills with voter approval.

    4. As shown in the first link provided, besides revenue the main reason a township considers moving from general law to charter status is to protect against annexation of land by a city. is that a potential concern for Peninsula Township?

    I hope these points will provide all with clarity as you work your way through this as a community. I respect the nature of the concerns raised. I can also assure you that as a township manager I was far from having unfettered authority or being the “top dog” in the situation. I was a public servant to the community and to the officials they elected. I helped them manage general operations on a day-to-day basis, brought issues to their attention, generally helped the folks who had day jobs along with serving the community juggle it all. I served through three full distinct administrations before the fourth decided to be more hands-on and eliminated the position. It was an honor and a pleasure to serve while needed.

  3. well i think you misread Curts piece. first of all he did not say we would add th 5 mills to the one. he actually said we would add the 1 mill to the 4 to get to the 5.
    Garfield township also has 3 times the population of the peninsula. Most of the few other townships in the state that became charters have much higher populations.
    Finally here is an excerpt from the town’s lawyer saying charter townships can be annexed easily and there are several obstacles to annexation of a charter. I do not think we would meet the criteria that he points out as necessary for annexation to take place at least with regard to the population.

    “Unfortunately, becoming a charter township does not solve your annexation concerns and may even make your situation worse. Although some charter townships have limited protection from annexation in the Commission, the Charter Township Act has its own annexation method that makes charter townships even more vulnerable to annexation in some situations. If property owners in a charter township want to annex their property to an adjacent city, the owners simply must file a petition for an election with the county clerk, and the annexation will be decided by a vote in the city and by the residents of the area seeking to annex. The rest of the charter township has no say in the matter, and we have seen many such annexations of charter townships over the years.

    In addition, to even qualify for this limited protection, the charter township must either have been formed prior to June 15, 1978, or must meet all the following criteria:

    SEV of at least $25 million
    150 persons per square mile
    Fire protection by contract or otherwise
    Comprehensive zoning ordinance or master plan
    Solid waste disposal by contract, license, or municipal ownership
    Water or sewer services, by contract or otherwise
    Police protection through own department or contract with the sheriff
    Most townships do not meet these criteria, and even if they do, the Charter Township Act presents its own annexation challenges, as discussed above. As a result, we do not recommend that townships become charter townships to protect themselves from annexation.”

  4. I would be concerned as to the possibility of higher taxes if Pen Twp was to become a charter township. We already pay a lot and with the addition of the 1% admin fee on our property taxes. Also, did anyone notice that there were several mentions in OM gazette, Record Eagle and town board meetings that the new fire station would not cost the taxpayers anything and now our millage increased and we are paying for it?

    I would like to see the township make some cuts in expenses. Elected officials make a good salary, have a fluid work schedule and pretty much unlimited vacation. Add to that medical insurance and a township match for IRA and that is a pretty good package. Why does the township have a full time lighthouse manager (with full time benefits) when the lighthouse is closed from Nov-April? Why don’t we ever see a budget with expenses at any town board meetings? What is the time and monetary cost for a multipage, color newsletter mailed out to people when the information in there can be found from other sources or put online – could these monies be used elsewhere in the peninsula?

  5. The township should set out the salary and cost of benefits of each employee and board member. I think you would be surprised. The benefits ate very generous as well. Ever notice how many cars are not there at the early start tome or later finish time on the so called longer days. They all got raises this year on top of raises in the last few years.
    Our township has one of the highest employee Per population of most townships.
    Its tome for some accountability. But when no one is pressing for that of course they will continue to vote themselves raises and benefits.

  6. Garfield Township has a population of about 18,000 people. East Bay 12,000, and Long Lake 11,000.
    Peninsula has a population of 6,000. Those three larger townships are theCharter Townships in Grand Traverse County. All the rest are general law townships, which have proved not perfect but adequate, for decades. Moving to a form of government which may be appropriate for a population of two or three times the size of Peninsula Township does not seem to be an urgent matter. Counsel who appeared at the Township meeting on September 7 at St. Joseph Church said that Michigan cities have an average millage of 20 mils, about four times the millage of Peninsula Township, but they continually seek increased millages. Having more money available and more employees apparently does not satisfy the hunger for more and better government services. So why should we rush into the upwards spiral of more costs, more government, and demands for more government? Does anyone seriously expect that it will produce better government? Yes, there are services by Peninsula Township government which could be done better, but hiring more people, and doubling our taxes will not change that. There will always be demands for more, more, and more. We should either walk away from this proposal, or soundly defeat it in a vote by the Peninsula Township voters. The trustees should not decide on their own to put Charter Township government in place without the consent of the voters.

  7. You are absolutely right. They could do nothing. They are not required to have referendum. They can do nothing. No one I talk to wants this charter township status. More importantly no one wants to give them the power to raise our taxes $5 for every $1000 of assessment. We pay enough taxes already. Their excuse is we need more expertise. This township has gotten by with qualified people in their respective positions. Are we saying they cant do their jobs? We don’t need more people with salaries, health benefits, dental and life insurance and pension costs. You know that cycle never ends.
    If they are in need of money why not charge non residents to use the boat launches. No talk last night about efficiencies and cut backs. Legal fees are out of wack with other townships. They have the lawyer at every meeting, for what? Last months legal fees were $38,000. 27 of that was for winery lawsuits.
    The planner hired a consultant for $4600. What’s that about? She’s a seasoned professional, isn’t she?
    Thi

  8. I get it. Was there last night ( thanks St. Joseph church) for hosting. For most of us we want nothing in terms of government. We like our rural character. We like well not our high taxes. Our taxes are really high based on assessment values. So last night we heard of needs for parks that we do not have money to fund. Dave Murphy we believe in parks and your committees needs. How do we do this? Not sure but giving total tax control the twp board without our voter approval ( Ostemo verdict Michigan County of appeals vs Dana Nessel Michigan Attorney general shows that we at Penn twp would have no control over this added tax from 1 to 5 mil added. Stop do not allow this to happen withou a vote of our population.

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