|Spectators at the January information meeting about consolidation.|
Members of the State Boundary Commission met with about 70 residents in January to discuss the process of Saugatuck and Douglas cities merging with Saugatuck Township. Officials took questions from audience members. Here are the questions and answers:
QUESTION #1: SUBMITTED BY DICK WASKIN
I want to thank you for the very informative meeting last night in Saugatuck. I apologize for some in the audience that seemed to be on the “attack.” We really are not all that mean.
I have a question as it pertains to the process. Many people believe that it makes complete sense for the current cities of Saugatuck and Douglas to consolidate but believe the needs of the Township are very different then those of the cities. If there was a referendum on the Tri Community Consolidation and it fails in the Township, could there be a petition submitted for just the Consolidation of Saugatuck and Douglas without the Township? Could this be done without having to wait the 2 to 3 year period since it would be a different request?
The scenario you have described would allow for a new petition to be filed at anytime after a vote denying the proposed consolidation. The 2-year timeframe would not apply since the new petition would not propose to consolidate the “identical municipalities” originally voted on. R 123.24 Rejected petitions or resolutions. Rule 24 (2) The commission shall reject a consolidation petition if a proposition to consolidate the IDENTICAL MUNICIPALITIES has been voted on within the 2 years immediately preceding the filing of the later petition.
The entire rule and other pertinent laws can be found at: www.michigan.gov/sbc
QUESTION #2 SUBMITTED BY LISA GREENWOOD
Thank you for presenting at the public meeting last night to educate us on the consolidation process followed by the State Boundary Commission.
I was the person in the audience (a.k.a., woman in black) who asked a question on how the millage rates would be determined should the tri-communities of Douglas, Saugatuck, and Saugatuck Township be consolidated. I remain very interested in learning more on this topic.
My specific questions are if the tri-communities are consolidated into one city:
1) Is it a requirement that all the millage rates for city services be equally shared or can a city charter include provisions to create different tax assessment districts within the city?
2) If it is legal for a city to create different tax assessment districts, what is the process followed to determine the various millage rates imposed?
I have copied Jim Wiley, Mayor of the City of Douglas, and William LeFevere, City Manager of the City of Douglas, and respectfully ask that you respond to me and copy them on your response. I will ask them to share the information with their counterparts in the City of Saugatuck and Saugatuck Township.
This question on taxes I believe is on many people’s minds given that the millage rates for the City of Douglas and Saugatuck currently include services (e.g., Police) not currently paid by the township. This results in a significantly lower millage rates for township property owners.
Section 3 of the Home Rule City Act, 1909 PA 279, MCL 117.3, states that the city charter must govern how taxes are levied. Section 3(g) of the Act sets a limit on millage rates levied for municipal purposes. The Act makes no reference to various rates for different areas of a city. A copy of the Home Rule City Act may be found at www.michigan.gov/sbc.
QUESTIONS 3-9 WERE SUBMITTED BY BILL HESS
Consolidation Petition Withdrawal: Can the petitioners withdraw the petition? At what steps in the process?
There is no legal provision for the withdrawal of a consolidation petition.
Referendum Petition: Am I correct that the Referendum Petition must have the signatures of 5% of the total registered voters in the three municipalities?
A valid referendum petition requires signatures from no less than 5 percent of the total registered voters within the area proposed to be consolidated. If a consolidation proposal is approved with or without a revision of the boundaries the commission's order becomes final 45 days after the date of the order unless within that 45 days a petition for a referendum is filed with the commission which contains the signatures of at least 5% of the registered electors residing in the area to be consolidated as approved by the commission. [1968 PA 191, MCL 123.1012(a)(3)]
Charter Commission Elected or Appointed: When and who decides if the Charter Commission is elected (proportional to population) or appointed (equal number of members from each municipality)?
The municipalities are responsible for deciding if they want the charter commission elected or appointed. If they want the ability to appoint the charter commissioners each municipality will need to pass a resolution stating that they wish to appoint the charter commissioners. The resolutions will need to be provided to the State Boundary Commission prior to its adjudicative hearing on the consolidation. If each municipality is unable to provide a resolution the State Boundary will order an election take place in accordance with section 13(1) of the State Boundary Commission Act, 1968 PA 191, MCL 123.13(1).
Charter Commission Timeline: What is the timing that the Commission must present a charter or revised charter to the voters? Is the total time three years?
The charter must be adopted by the voters in each municipality, voting separately, within three years of the effective date of the final order by the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
If a charter has not been adopted within 3 years following the date the commission's order became final, or if within the 3-year period the charter commission does not reconvene within 90 days after the election at which the first proposed charter was defeated, the consolidation proceedings shall end. [1968 PA 191, MCL 123.1017(4)]
Charter Commission Support and Resources: Since the consolidation was not initiated by any municipality, who provides support and funding for the Charter Commission? For example, who provides staff, "notices" meetings, secures municipality attorneys, finds meeting space, etc.
That is not within the purview of the State Boundary Commission.
Status of Current Governments During Period Charter is Being Written: Do the current three governments operate as "business as usual" or is there some type of interim government?
The municipalities continue to operate as "business as usual" until the new charter takes effect. Sec 17 (1) The corporate status of the cities and villages proposed for consolidation shall not be changed or in any way affected until the charter takes effect. [1968 PA 191, MCL 123.1017(1)]
Area of Consolidation: Can the area of consolidation be reduced, for example the Township removed and just the two cities consolidated?
The proposed area of consolidation may be revised, expanded or contracted, by recommendation of the State Boundary Commission and order of the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Sec. 12a. (1) After the public hearing on a proposed consolidation and review by the commission, the commission may deny the proposed consolidation, revise the boundaries of the territory to be consolidated and approve the proposal, or approve the consolidation without any change. [1968 PA 191, MCL 123.1012a(1)]
QUESTIONS 10-12 WERE SUBMITTED BY WILLIAM LEFEVERE
Thank you for the meeting last night it was helpful and informative to all those in attendance. In follow up, no one ask and your presentation did not cover the timing or appointment of the two local members by the Probate Court to sit as Boundary Commissioners. Could you please describe when this occurs and how that process works?
The local commissioners from Allegan County serve for three year terms. They are already in place from previous Boundary Commission filings in Allegan County. Section 5 of the State Boundary Commission Act, 1968 PA 191, MCL 123.1005, specifically addresses this topic.
MCL 123.1012a Sec. 12a. (1) specifically states that it is the Boundary Commission that denies or approves the proposed consolidation. I was not aware that an executive order could trump a statute. Could you please clarify how that is possible? Procedurally, if the Boundary Commission is not the decision making body wouldn’t any referendum petition have to specifically address whose decision is being challenged?
A referendum petition must state clearly what is being petitioned for so that a person signing the petition has full knowledge of what they are agreeing to support. The Executive Reorganization Act PA 380 of 1965, in conjunction with Michigan Attorney General Opinion #4479A issued May 2, 1966 and Executive Reorganization Order 1996-2 address, how the decision making powers of the State Boundary Commission were transferred to the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
After the meeting you and I also discussed procedurally “when and how” the Commission would act if it was their intent to make revisions to the size of the area to be consolidated from the petition that has been submitted. I came away from that discussion with the understanding that any action by the Commission to revise the area to be consolidated would occur at or during the meeting at which the legal sufficiency of the petitions is taken up. The statute, as well as your rules, appears to provide ample opportunity for the Commission or the final decision maker to revise the area to be consolidated even after the opportunity for any further all public input has occurred. As this didn’t come up during the meeting and your only slide covered just the expansion of the boundaries, could you please restate when and how the Commission would make adjustments to reduce the size the area to be consolidated.
The proposed area of consolidation may be revised, expanded or contracted, by recommendation of the State Boundary Commission and order of the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Sec. 12a. (1) After the public hearing on a proposed consolidation and review by the commission, the commission may deny the proposed consolidation, revise the boundaries of the territory to be consolidated and approve the proposal, or approve the consolidation without any change. [PA 191, MCL 123.1012a (1)]