(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
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb