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Dickinson protests tax tribunal appointment

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Dickinson County Board has adopted a resolution calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to withdraw her nomination returning Victoria Enyart to the Michigan Tax Tribunal or for the state senate to reject it.

Similar measures have been approved by a growing number of municipalities concerned about Enyart’s acceptance of the “dark store” theory of property appraisal in place of standard assessment methods.

The tribunal is an administrative court that hears tax appeals for all Michigan taxes, although most of the appeals involve property taxes. Under the dark store method, a property can be valued as though it were vacant or “dark,” with the owners arguing it cannot be easily resold.

The county’s resolution cites Enyart’s application of the dark store theory in numerous cases, most notably in an appeal by Menards against the city of Escanaba.

In a May decision that followed a lengthy court battle, the tribunal set the taxable value of a Menards store in Escanaba at $2.5 million, while the city in 2012 had set it at $4.3 million.

“Victoria Enyart has no legal training or background, is not competent to render decisions on Michigan law and is, historically, among the most frequently reversed members ever to be appointed to the tax tribunal,” the resolution states.

Whitmer on Aug. 14 announced Enyart’s reappointment to represent certified level IV assessors on the tribunal for a term expiring June 30, 2024. Enyart, of Jackson, is a level IV master assessing officer and certified general real estate appraiser. She previously was equalization director for Jackson County and city assessor for the cities of Mount Pleasant and Ann Arbor. She has 15 years of experience on the panel, having been appointed by three other governors.

State Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, is seeking a hearing on Enyart’s reappointment, which is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. Dark store rulings have starved Upper Peninsula communities of vital tax revenues, McBroom said.

In support of the resolution, Commissioner Kevin Pirlot said Enyart has made “disastrous rulings against local units of government.”

In other action Monday, the county board:

— Appointed James Danielson to the Northpointe Board for a partial term expiring March 31, 2021; Mary Van Oss to the Dickinson County Planning Commission for a partial term expiring Feb. 28, 2023; Katy Driscoll to the Department of Human Services Board for a three-year term expiring Oct. 31, 2023; Denny Olson to the Veterans Affairs Committee for a four-year term to expire Dec. 31, 2024; and Robert Lundholm to the Dickinson County Library Board for a five-year term to expire Dec. 31, 2025.

— Noted that several vacancies remain on the planning commission, with information available at http://www.dickinsoncountymi.gov/.

— Approved County Clerk-Register of Deeds Dolly Cook’s request for a department wage study of her office. The cost of the third-party review will be about $2,200, with job descriptions and pay classifications to be recommended. MGT Consulting Group of Bay City recently did a similar review of district court positions.

— Authorized, in a 4-1 vote, a request from District Court Judge Julie LaCost to start the new court clerk-deputy magistrate at a pay rate representing one year’s experience, or $20.863 per hour, instead of the starting pay rate of $19.179. The employee, Susan Ellis, previously worked nine years in the sheriff’s office as administrative assistant/bookkeeper, reaching the top of her pay grade and coming highly recommended, LaCost said. Commissioner Joe Stevens voted no, saying it might send the wrong message to other departments. Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. spoke in favor, saying it has been done in the past, even for some employees lacking county experience.

— Learned from Degenaer that a drive-through carnival food event at the Norway fairgrounds Labor Day weekend netted about $5,000 to $6,000 for the county fair, which was mostly canceled by the pandemic. A horse pull drew about $1,300 in admissions, while 4-H youth garnered roughly $96,000 from livestock auction sales.

— Heard Stevens compliment organizers of the Crafty Flea Market on Saturday at Lake Antoine, a benefit for Lake Antoine Park Partners and Newspapers in Education. Despite it being a rainy day, the event was a success, he said.

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