Clinton TownshipJune 28, 2012
Township canvassers may be visiting your property
By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Over the past month, Stephanie Cuniberti has been met with a fair amount of skepticism when she turns up on Clinton Township doorsteps, asking to inspect the outside of the homes.
But what the architecture major wants Clinton Township homeowners to know is that she’s just doing her job for the Clinton Township Assessing Department.
A lot of people have lived in the township for decades, Cuniberti said, yet they’ve never had a township employee come out, knock on their door and ask to measure their property.
“Some people have been caught off-guard,” she said. “Plus, there are tons of stories out there about people breaking into houses. People knocking on doors already have a bad name, so people are already skeptical for that reason. But some of them calm down when they see our badges, and they see we’re really from Clinton Township.”
Beginning the first week in June, the Clinton Township Assessing Department began its first summer in a five-summer process of canvassing every one of the township’s roughly 30,000 residential properties, said Township Assessor Jim Elrod.
Elrod said canvassers are expected to inspect about 20 percent of the residences, or about 6,000 homes, every summer for five consecutive summers as is recommended by the state. This summer, four canvassers will be visiting properties at the northern end of the township.
Elrod emphasized that the canvassers will only be measuring and checking the external, fixed structures on property — the home, decks, patios, sheds and in-ground pools — and won’t ask to enter the home or any buildings. Canvassers will not be measuring the plot of land itself.
External changes, such as the addition or removal of a deck or shed, or even part of the home itself, may affect the property value, however slightly.
“We work off permits, so if the homeowner didn’t pull a permit, the township has no idea” about the change, Elrod said. “Basically, what we’re doing is taking this out to the people to make sure this is as accurate as possible.”
The process, he said, was spurred by the State Tax Commission’s upcoming audit to gauge the accuracy of local field cards.
“Every homeowner in the township has their card on record. The state is auditing that,” Elrod added.
Per state requirements, the audit must show that at least 90 percent of randomly selected field cards are accurate. If they’re not, the state may order a further review or reappraisal.
“What we’re doing is, we are getting ahead of the game and starting our own canvas program to check out record cards to make sure we’re in compliance with the state,” he added. “We’re just comparing the card we have on file versus what’s actually there.”
Elrod added that the canvassers will knock on doors and try to alert the residents to their presence. If nobody is home, they will proceed to inspect the property because it’s too difficult to schedule an appointment with everybody, Elrod said.
Canvassers will be clearly wearing a picture ID badge from the township around their necks, and they will be driving a Clinton Township vehicle.
So far, Cuniberti said, many homeowners have been skeptical about letting the canvassers into their backyards, but they are supposed to measure exterior dimensions and take pictures all the way around their house, so they can then refer back to the photos later. Only photos of the front of the house accompany the field cards, however.
Canvassers, however, won’t jump over locked fences, but they do need to enter backyards if able.
“We’re just here to update the sketches that we have,” Cuniberti said. “Some people either have things in their backyard that aren’t on the sketches, so they don’t want us to know that they’re there, or they still don’t really understand it.”
Property owners can check the accuracy of their home’s field card by visiting the Assessing Department in the Clinton Township Civic Center, at 40700 Romeo Plank Road.
For more information about the canvassing process, call the Clinton Township Assessing Department at (586) 286-9468.
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