County OKs agreement with UPCAP

ESCANABA – The Delta County Board of Commissioners has approved an agreement with the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress (UPCAP) to provide the county equalization services; the action was taken during a county board meeting Tuesday.

The contract specifies that Delta County will pay UPCAP $125,000 for their services per year beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

The agreement was unanimously supported by the board.

Currently the county is under contract with Marquette County to provide equalization services, but UPCAP is working to consolidate some services since counties are facing difficult times financially, according to Jonathan Mead, president and CEO of UPCAP.

Mead noted as the area of equalization becomes more advanced with technology playing more of a role, counties need to make sure they are not falling behind. He said as technology changes, the number of equalization directors and assessors will likely decline.

“Also, training of our assessors and our equalization individuals is not keeping pace with that technology,” he said. “It’s been getting more and more difficult to find Level IV certified equalization individuals. I know that Delta County’s struggled with that. That’s one of the reasons why they’ve contracted with Marquette County, but there are other counties facing similar situations.”

UPCAP will contract with Allied Information Systems (AIS) to provide Delta County with a Level IV certified equalization/assessment director certified by the State Assessor’s Board. AIS has worked with several units of government throughout the country to provide Level IV-certified equalization support.

Delta County is the first U.P. county to contract with UPCAP for these equalization services, but Mead said hopefully UPCAP can provide these services to other counties as well.

Per the contract, UPCAP will complete and file all necessary reports, prepare and coordinate Delta County’s annual apportionment report, represent the county at the State Tax Tribunal regarding the procedure and data utilized to perform the equalization process, oversee the appraisal of real and personal property within the county, complete the annual appraisal and sales studies within the county, and prepare the annual equalization report for presentation to the county board.

UPCAP will also prepare statistical information and analysis of property value information, train and provide ongoing support and oversight of local unit assessors within the county, maintain the county’s parcel level Geographic Information System (GIS) and the web-hosting of county GIS data, and attend necessary meetings of the county board regarding work prepared by the Delta County Equalization Department.

“We’re going to ensure that the contractor’s held accountable, that they’re doing the job, that they’re effective and that the best interests of Delta County are being looked at on a regular basis,” assured Mead.

The board also approved a $200,962 payment to AIS for services they have provided through a county flyover project through a state of Michigan grant.

The county accepted the grant in December through the Competitive Grant Assistance Program for a unified tax assessment and equalization system in Delta County. AIS, which is providing GIS, aerial imagery, sketching and re-evaluation assistance services for the project, will reimburse the county 50 percent of the payment amount.

The board was also addressed by several youth, parents, and community members regarding the benefits and opportunities the Delta County 4-H program provides. The community members asked the board to reconsider making any cuts to the Delta County Michigan State University Extension Office as they finalize the coming year’s budget.

Board Chairman Tom Elegeert said everything regarding the MSUE budget is still open for discussion and no decisions have been made, but that the board firmly supports 4-H.

“I will say this board is on record as supporting 4-H and we will support 4-H and we will have a good 4-H program in this county. That’s guaranteed by this board,” he said. “However, there’s the other aspect of it. Keep in mind this county supports MSU by providing them 4,000 square feet, heat, lights and janitorial services and all that. That has value.”

Elegeert said the board will be meeting with the MSU Extension director to hear their concerns and to get a clearer vision of where MSUE wants to go in the future.

In other business, the board:

– agreed to hold a finance committee meeting to discuss allowing part-time sheriff’s department personnel to work more hours in the road patrol, front desk area, and marine division. In July, the county approved temporarily allowing part-time corrections officers to work more than the 29 hours per week maximum set for part-time employees in anticipation of enactment of the Affordable Care Act.