By Tom Tolen/

With the COVID-19 outbreak forcing local governments to close their doors to the public, the city of Brighton Board of Review held its first online meeting Monday.

Local governments are mandated to have boards of review so that property owners can ask questions about, or appeal, their property assessments and ask for adjustments. Of the 24 property owners who took their case to appeal,15 were residential, eight were personal property appeals, and one was a commercial building appeal. Of those, 13 were denied because the board determined the assessment to be correct, eight late filings were accepted, two appeals were granted with the board determining there should be a market adjustment in the property’ values and one poverty application was granted.

Head City Assessor Colleen Barton said that there was a lot of work that went into preparing for the meeting, both in terms of the paperwork on the 24 appeals and the logistics of putting together a meeting to be held online. But she told WHMI the system “worked quite well.”

The meeting was one of two required by law for boards of review. The first, an organizational meeting, was held on March 9th, and Monday’s meeting at city hall was specifically for the purpose of hearing property tax appeals.

One of the cases heard was a woman who lives in the Northridge condominium development who said she bought a “bare-bones” condo last year for $340,000 and maintained she is paying $1,100 more in property taxes than an acquaintance who has a “custom home” in a gated community at Hidden Lake in Green Oak Township. Barton couldn’t comment on her specific case, Barton said that taxes are higher in Brighton because the city provides many amenities that the townships do not provide.

Each year, the assessor reviews sales of property to determine if assessments equal the value they bring in the market. The assessor also reviews changes that have taken place through demolition or new construction, such as additions, building a garage and home remodeling. The assessor is charged with arriving at a “fair market value” or “true cash value” for the property. Michigan’s property tax law requires that assessments be at 50% of fair market value.

Those whose appeals were denied at Monday’s Board of Review have one final recourse - taking their appeal to the Michigan Tax Tribunal for a determination. Commercial property owners have until May 31st to file their appeal to the tax tribunal while residential property owners have until the end of July.

For 2020 the city of Brighton is levying 15.2627 operating mills in city taxes. In addition, for the first time this year the city is levying 2.5 mills for streets in a road millage that was approved by voters last year, also 2.37 mills for fire dept. operations that was also voter approved, 0.38 voter-approved mills for police operations, 87 hundredths of a mill for Brighton District Library operations and one-tenth of a mill for economic development. There is also a 1% administration or service fee. In addition to city taxes, city property owners also pay 7.1 mills that is applied to the Brighton Area Schools debt for previous bond issues, 6 mills that goes to the state school aid fund for public school operations, 3.92 mills in county taxes and 3.3 mills that goes to the Livingston Educational Service Agency (the county’s intermediate school district). That’s a total in both summer and winter taxes combined of approximately 41.9 mills. A mill is defined as a $1 tax for every $1,000 in property value.

Colleen Barton has been Brighton head assessor since 2012. She is a level III assessor and is studying to become a level IV assessor, the highest assessing level possible.