Purpose of Equalization
The equalization process sets the property tax base for the county and helps to ensure that property taxes are levied in a fair and equitable manner.
Each year, under guidelines established by the State Tax Commission, the Equalization Department works with township and city assessors to assure proper equalized values for real and personal property throughout the County.
The Equalization Department's main purpose is to correct the inequities that may occur between the local units of government as a result of under or over-assessment of a property class. The Equalization Department does not determine individual assessments; that is the sole responsibility of the local assessor. The equalization process is accomplished using sales and appraisal studies performed on individual property classes in each township and city throughout the County.
The results of these sales and appraisal studies are used to determine the true cash value of each property class (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, developmental, timber cutover, and personal property). The Department's equalization studies are compared to the corresponding property class totals as determined by the assessor for each township and city. If necessary, the Department applies a "County Equalization Factor" to those classes that have an "average level" of assessment above or below 50% of true cash value.
The department is also responsible for calculating all millage rollback fractions required by law (Headlee, Truth in Assessing, Truth in County Equalization, and Truth in Taxation) for all taxing jurisdictions within Otsego County, i.e. schools, Intermediate Schools, Otsego County, authorities, townships, villages, cities, etc.
The record generated and maintained by this Department is public information and as such is utilized by the public including realty personnel, independent fee appraisers, financial institutions, abstract/title insurance companies, tax lien, and public land sale purchasers. The use and dissemination of such information provides an indirect benefit to any individual who wishes to buy, sell, or finance property in Otsego County.
In the course of performing its statutory duties, the Department serves as a liaison between the State Tax Commission, County Board of Commissioners, the local units, and the public.
The process of County Equalization is mandated by Section 211.34 of the General Property Tax Act of the State of Michigan, which states in part that the County Board of Commissioners shall examine the assessment rolls of the townships and cities each year and ascertain whether each class of real and personal property in the township or city has been equally and uniformly assessed at an average level of 50% of true cash value.
The General Property Tax Act goes on to state that the County Board of Commissioners of a County shall establish and maintain a department to survey assessments and assist the Board of Commissioners in the matter of equalization of assessments. The department may furnish assistance to local assessing officers in the performance of duties including development and maintenance of accurate property descriptions, the discovery, listing, and valuation of properties for tax purposes, and the development and use of uniform valuation standards and techniques for the assessment of the property.