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February 27, 2013

New law lessens burden on local governments

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

ROSEVILLE — Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law a bill aimed at lessening certain regulatory burdens on local governments.

Public Act 461, or House Bill 5047, allows local tax-collecting units to send settlement tax rolls to the county treasurer in computerized format, saving time and money.

“It removes the burden from the Treasurer’s Office and it makes them able to complete their job more efficiently at tax time,” said Roseville Mayor John Chirkun.

State Rep. Harold Haugh, who represents Roseville and Warren, sponsored the bill after hearing from his wife, Roseville Treasurer Catherine Haugh, and Roseville Deputy Treasurer Joan Logghe about the time and resources that were wasted having to print the settlement tax rolls.

“We are always looking for ways to cut costs and help our environment,” Catherine Haugh said. “This way, we can do it all electronically and save on tens and thousands of pieces of paper being wasted each tax season. When you think of all the trees we were killing, the wear and tear on our printers, all the ink we were using and then the time it took for me to bind all the pages together and deliver it to the county treasurer’s office, this law will save on all of that.”

Settlement tax rolls record changes to the assessed values of property and equipment, and some years, they are massive. Haugh said that, in one instance, a city employee had to print more than 10,000 pages of the tax rolls to deliver to the county offices.

“In Roseville, 10,000 pages is about average,” said Catherine Haugh. “I can’t imagine what’s average in cities like Sterling Heights or Warren.”

“This bill allows the use of technology to save taxpayers money by streamlining what is currently a costly and time-consuming process,” Haugh said. “This much-needed law frees up staff time to meet the other needs of residents. It saves money. It saves resources.”

Prior to Public Act 461, local municipalities and tax-collecting units were required to submit their settlement tax rolls to county treasurers’ offices in a printed-out format under the General Property Tax Act. Now, with the updated law, settlement tax rolls can be submitted using computerized print formats, such as in a PDF or Excel document on external hard drives or discs.

“Before they had to file reams of paper with the county treasurer’s office, and the county treasurer’s office would scan it into a file and then dispose of it. The update to the law saves time and resources and the environment,” Haugh said.

This is the sixth Haugh-sponsored bill to become a law since he was elected to the House.

“Since becoming a state representative, I’ve sponsored six bills that have become laws, which is more than any of the Democrats in this term,” Haugh said.

Some of the other Haugh-sponsored laws include: PA 418 of 2012, dealing with elections and recalls; PA 250, which outlines the criteria for eligibility in mentored youth hunting programs for children in the foster care system; PA 59, which outlines licensing requirements and penalties for watercraft; and PA 256, the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act.

Haugh continues to working on the fireworks legislation this year, hoping to better define its terms for local municipalities.

“We’re making sure the distribution of funds to the Fire Safety Training Fund is happening, giving local municipalities more authority and making sure they know what authorities they have,” he said.

Haugh is the minority vice chair of the House Regulatory Reform Committee and the Elections and Ethics Committee and is a member of the House Tax Policy Committee.

Haugh can be reached at (517) 373-0854.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.