Thursday, September 15, 2011

Village v. LIPOA Elections

On Tuesday of this week we conducted our 2011 General Election for the Village of Lake Isabella.  Over 230 people voted in the election.  On the ballot were six people running for the Village Council along with 2 proposed amendments to the Village Charter.  Both amendments passed by large margins.  These amendments make technical change in the Charter dealing with delinquent tax payments.  Specifically they relate to ownership of penalty fees when the Village settles our delinquent roll with Isabella County.  The amendments do not alter anything on the taxpayer side of the table, only which unit of government gets to keep the penalty amount at the time of settlement.

Of the six candidates seeking office, both incumbent Village Council members, Dan Pattison and Jeff Grey, were re-elected.  Along with Pattison and Grey new comer John Eberhart was also elected to the Council.  These three men will have terms that begin in January of 2012 and run until January of 2016.

The other four members of the Village Council; Charlie Kiel, Dave Torgerson, Richard Lacca, and Arnold Griffin have terms that expire in January of 2014, with that election scheduled for September of 2013.

Over the course of the day we had a few questions from residents about how election is conducted versus how the LIPOA's election is held.  The most basic difference between our two respective bodies is that as a local unit of government our elections are governed by Michigan election law.  This law applies to all elections and candidates seeking office in Michigan.  The same rules that apply to a person seeking the office of Governor also apply to those seeking office on the Village Council.

A few examples of how this applies are that all information distributed by or on behalf of a candidate must include information on who paid for the material.  This is usually found in a statement such as, "Printed by the Committee to elect..."  For the LIPOA, as a private organization they are not bound by the requirements of Michigan election law since they are not electing public offices.

Another difference between our two elections is how candidates are nominated.  With the LIPOA any member in good standing can sign-up to run to be their district representative.  With the Village candidates are required to submit nominating petitions with between 15 and 25 signatures of registered voters in the Village.  These petitions are due back on a set date and time as established in election law. 

Above all else, the biggest difference between our two election processes is simply who gets to vote.  With the LIPOA any member in good standing is allowed to vote for their district representative.  Specifically, it is one voter per membership.  Meaning that if a couple that owns two lots wants to vote they collectively get to cast one vote.  If that same couple however paid two different membership dues (not lake maintenance fees) they would then get to cast two votes.  One vote per membership, regardless of how many people in a family make-up that membership.

Under Michigan election law property ownership is no factor in determining who can and cannot vote.  Likewise, no membership fee is required to vote.  To be a registered voter only requires residency within the Village and being registered to vote.  Residency may be in the form of owning your own home, renting, or living with friends or family.  Likewise, if you own vacant property or have a seasonal home at the Village with a different primary residency you are not able to vote in Village elections even if you pay property taxes.

Finally, one more difference between our two organizations is how the board is organized.  In that, with the Village voters elect members "at large" from the entire community.  With the LIPOA there are 9 specific districts.  Where your property and membership is within those 9 districts determines which district you can vote for.  Meaning if you live in District 1, you only get to vote in District 1.  With the Village Council you can vote for any candidate on the ballot with the top vote getters being elected.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Information on the Ballot Proposals

In addition to voting for up to three candidates for the Village Council, voters will be asked to vote on two amendments to the Village Charter at next Tuesday's election. These two amendments deal with the issue of collecting the 1% per month penalty on late tax payments.  Village tax bills are due at the end of August, and may be paid at the Village until the end of February. On the first of March the collection of delinquent taxes are transferred from the Village to Isabella County.

When the Village settles the delinquent taxes with Isabella County, the Village receives a payment in the amount of the original amount billed for the year.  Curerntly, once the delinquent tax roll is turned over all interest and penalties are then kept by Isabella County.

The proposed amendments would require that when the Village settles the outstanding tax bills with the County, the interest penalty that would have otherwise been paid to the Village are included in the settlement amount.  This is accomplished by changing the language in the Village Charter to state that the Village owns the tax roll and all debts to the roll. 

Over the past 5 years the Village has collectively settled nearly $275,000 of delinquent taxes with Isabella County.  If Isabella County had been required to also settle the outstanding penalties to our taxes, that would resulted in over $16,000 of funds being returned to the Village over that 5 year period.

Please note that this only applies to late payments which are turned over to Isabella County. Nothing involving the actual collection or penalty part of our current tax collection system are being modified by these two amendments.  The only change relates specifically to the settlement of delinquent taxes. 

If approved by voters, the amendments also do not impact the amount of money that a person paying a delinquent tax bill would be required to pay.  The amendments only require Isabella County to return part of the penalty to the Village.  In addition to the penalty assessed by the Village, Isabella County also imposed its own penalty and adminsitration costs for collection once the roll is settled.