ST. JOSEPH — How does Berrien compare to other counties in Michigan in the rate of taxes it charges residents?
Berrien is ninth-lowest in the state, at 5.9723 mills, according to the latest tax apportionment report presented to the board of commissioners Thursday by Tony Meyaard, director of the county’s tax equalization office.
The highest in Michigan is Ontonagon County, at 14.47 mills, Meyaard showed.
The goal of the report is to show the impact of tax collections, Meyaard explained. His office also makes sure that the state’s millage reductions are applied. The key one is the Headlee reduction, which limits increases in property taxes to the Consumer Price Index, not including new construction.
The office oversaw 11 reductions this year, with eight for government units, two for school districts, and one for an additional taxing authority. The county has 69 taxing authorities with 237 millage rates. The county board approves all millages.
Along with its total millage rate, Berrien ranks 30th in its allocated rate and 11th in extra voted millages.
Of the 36 counties that levy an additional tax for public safety, Berrien’s is second-lowest, at 0.35 mills, a rate that hasn’t been increased since the 1980s. For its 911-central dispatch millage, at 0.45 mills, the county is 15th-lowest out of 37. Its senior citizen millage, 0.3 mills, is 17th lowest out of 73. The 0.1 mill parks millage is the lowest in the state.
The county’s millages are estimated to bring in $47.9 million, which is $995,000 above the previous year. This includes a general operating millage of 4.7723 mills, which generates $38.3 million.
Board Chairman Mac Elliott said the Headlee Amendment, enacted 40 years ago, has “whittled away” at the budget for Berrien and other counties.
Meyaard said that the Headlee reduction isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since the county is not receiving less than was approved, and that it shows that property values are greater than the rate of reduction.
The problem is that there is no provision for governments to catch up when such reverses as the recession of 2008 occur, Meyaard said.
The report show the local millage rate comparisons. Benton Harbor, for example, has the highest rate at 25 mills, among Berrien cities, townships, and villages, followed by Watervliet and St. Joseph. The final report will include the values for each taxing authority.
Contact: jmatuszak@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak