Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022. This is part of a series of articles aimed at informing Farm Bureau members about elected and appointed positions that offer opportunities for representing agriculture in government.
By Rebecca Park
Does helping local neighbors understand their property taxes, and making independent judgments based on facts and law, sound like fun? If so, you are surely destined to serve on your local board of review.
The board of review is not the tax assessor, and the assessor is not the board of review. The township board appoints three, six or nine electors (voters) to serve as the board of review for yearlong terms. If six or nine are appointed, they are divided into three individual boards of review for the purpose of conducting hearings and making decisions.
Farmer input and participation is vital on rural boards of review to aid their understanding of property tax issues specific to agriculture.
Barry County Farm Bureau member and military veteran Allen Staskus raises beef cattle and farms around 200 acres near Nashville. Still living in the house he grew up in, Staskus served on the Maple Grove Township board of review for three years and feels strongly about giving back to his home community.
He also credits the leadership skills he honed in the military.
“I have a lot to give and I want to give back to the people who gave so much to me,” he said. “Helping my local community and helping people set things right — make them right to the best of our ability — keeps me going.”
Townships with larger populations might need their boards of review to meet for longer periods, but in Staskus’s rural municipality they only met five times a year. At some times of year they’re busy determining property tax appeals for things like classification and valuation; at other times their focus is on determining things like exemptions for disabled veterans.
Whatever needs doing, the board’s mandate is to ensure the roll complies with Michigan’s General Property Tax Act.
For Staskus, it’s a personal priority to serve the people of the community in which he grew up. He speaks fondly of talking with people around town or in the grocery store, helping answer their questions about property taxes and why one neighbor’s bill is higher or lower than another’s.
“It’s cool helping people,” he said. “I gotta do something. I live here. I want to be involved in my community.”
Rebecca Park is an MFB Legislative Counsel specializing in taxation, K-12 education and production agriculture issues.
Local government positions examined in this series (and more coming soon):