Taxing issues

Chase Township community discusses reassessments

CHASE TWP. – A property-tax issue in Chase Township has many residents angered about the re-classification of their property.

The controversy stems from a recent decision by Chase Township Tax Assessor Sam Barnett to re-classify 36 properties in the township from agricultural to residential.

In Chase Township, properties classified as agricultural are taxed at 18 mils less than those that are classified as residential, according to Township Supervisor Ken Shoemaker.

A millage rate or “mil,” is the rate at which property taxes are levied on property, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

The state rate for a mil is 1/1000th of a dollar ($.001). In Chase Township, properties are taxed at 28.36 mils, or $2,836 for a property that has a taxable value of $100,000.

According to Shoemaker, Barnett reviews 20 percent of the township’s properties every year and the decision to re-classify them is up to Barnett. The Chase Township Board of Supervisors has no say in how and what a property is classified.

For a property to be classified as agricultural in Chase Township, the main purpose of the land must be of an agricultural use.

“Are you using 51 percent of your land for agricultural use?” Shoemaker said. “Hunting is not (agricultural) use. Planting corn for deer, is not (agricultural) use.”

Many of the residents are in the process of appealing their re-classification to the township Board of Review.

One resident leading this charge for many residents is Deb Berry.

During a meeting of the township Board of Review on March 15, Berry accused Barnett of making threats to “raise (Berry’s) taxes as much as I can.”

Barnett categorically denied those accusations during the meeting.

“(Notifying the residents) was not something I was required to do,” Barnett said. “It was out of courtesy. I could have just put the new figures on their tax statement and they probably wouldn’t have even noticed.”

Berry has since filed a complaint with the state Tax Commission.

Gordon Erler, whose property was re-classified as residential supports Berry in her cause and believe that she is being targeted by Chase Township officials.

“They definitely got a target on her back.” Erler said.

In letters obtained by The Lake County Star, Erler accuses Shoemaker and Board of Review Chairman Steve Bennett of being “hostile and uncooperative” and in an e-mail to the state Tax Commission said Berry is “being harassed and targeted.”

Shoemaker feels Berry’s claims are political, as Berry is currently running a for position on the township Board of Supervisors. Barnett believes Berry is running for that position so she can fire him.

“Her property taxes weren’t even raised this year,” Bennett said.

Political motivations aside, Erler believes that Berry is acting in the best interests of her fellow residents.

“If it wasn’t for her, I would probably just sit back and take it,” Erler said.

“Because of her, it led me to get proactive.”

“Residents should go get a copy of your tax card and make sure anything that is marked is proper.”