Williams Township Board of Review
Jerry Andrus, Chairman
Norm Adams, Secretary
Don Rueger, Member
Bill Kuehne, Alternate Member
A board of review normally has three members such as the Williams Township Board of Review. The assessor presents the assessment roll to the township board of review in March during the annual assessing cycle. Board of review members are appointed to two-year terms, although they may be reappointed to additional terms. The terms begin and end on January 1 of odd-numbered years. Board of review members may not be members of the immediate family of the township assessor.
Boards of review have several tasks. The first is to meet with the assessor on the Tuesday after the first Monday in March for the organizational meeting and to review the tentative assessment role, and to correct errors that are reported or discovered. Errors such as missing properties, errors in owner names, property descriptions, and the like are among the errors that may appear. The board may place on the roll those that have been omitted erroneously and the assessor must notify the owners of such properties so that they can file a protest if that is their desire.
Another important task is to hear appeals from property owners regarding the assessment of their properties. The process will have gotten started with the assessment notice that the township assessor sent out at least 10 days before the first day of board of review meetings. The board of review begins hearing from property owners during the week following the March organizational meeting. It must meet for at least twelve hours that week with at least three hours after 6:00 pm. Taxpayers who want to appeal their assessment must first go to the March board of review; if they are denied an adjustment, they may then appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal.
Ordinarily, resident property owners appeal in person to make their appeals but the law permits nonresidents to file a complaint by mail. The Williams Township Board, as permitted by law, has adopted a resolution stating that resident property owners also may file their complaints by mail.
Boards of review also must hold hearings on requests for poverty exemptions. The statute gives these boards some discretion on granting or denying a request. However, the law also states that they must comply with the policy provisions adopted by the township board unless they find compelling reasons to decide a case differently.
After the board of review has considered all the appeals, it votes to approve or deny the assessed values or tentative taxable values. It must complete its work by the first Monday in April when the board delivers the signed roll to the assessor.
The law grants the boards of review authority to correct errors, to modify property assessments, and to change the tentative taxable values associated with the properties. The board does so by majority vote of the entire board of review. After having decided the issues, it then must notify each of the petitioners by mail informing them of the action and also of their right to appeal to the state tax tribunal.
Boards of review have two additional statutory meeting dates specified by law; Tuesday after the third Monday in July for the summer tax roll and Tuesday after the second Monday in December for the winter tax roll. The original purpose of these meetings was to provide one final opportunity to correct errors that may have crept into the assessment rolls. The board may correct such errors and notify the collecting treasurers who may then make the necessary changes in the tax bills. Since the adoption of Proposal A, however, boards of review have another item of business at these meetings. That item has to do with hearing appeals and correcting problems regarding the "principal residence exemption" that exempts a residence and farm property from the school operating taxes. The Michigan Department of Treasury that administers part of the exemption process may deny or rescind exemptions for cause. Property owners may appeal these rescissions to the local board of review to get the matter resolved at these meetings. And, if the board of review denies the claim, the owner may appeal the issue to the state tax tribunal.
How much discretion may the board of review exercise? The authority and duties of the board of review are clear; it has an obligation to correct errors and to eliminate inequities brought to the attention of the board. For the most part, property owners who are not expert in the assessing practices bring the appeals. If the township has a skilled and knowledgeable assessor, the board will usually find it difficult to ignore the arguments of the assessor except in instances where the issue in dispute results from an error rather than from the judgment of the data. That may differ when the property assessment involves a highly complex industrial facility and highly skilled expertise arguing for the appellant. Such an issue, perhaps, would require more time than a board of review can apply and the board of review members might conclude that it would better if the appellant took the issue to the state tax tribunal and perhaps the court system.
Another factor tends to constrain the actions of the board of review from lowering very many assessments. The board of county commissioners formally adopts the county equalization factor after the board of review completes its work. Too many reductions by the board of review, at least in theory, will result in an increase in the equalization factor(s), thereby raising all the properties in that class a notch or two. Thus, board of review members must view their task to be one of correcting errors and oversights, not reassessing the township. A board of review that, in 1981, reduced by 10 percent the valuations of all those who appealed was simply acting irresponsibly and making mischief. In fact, the attorney general ruled their action invalid.