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Monday, January 26, 2015

Interview with Judge Paula Humphries - Candidate for Detroit City Council

By.  Richard Clement

On a stop by the office, I had time for a short interview with Judge Humpries candidate for City Council seat vacated by Saunteel Jenkins.  I asked her what makes you stand out as a candidate for the job, she responded and I summarized it as follows:

She is passionate for the neighborhoods and the need for the same compassion that Downtown/Midtown is getting in their redevelopment. She is also willing to work as a team member with other council members for the good of the community.  Understands the inner workings of City Government with her training and legal background. Can look at situations with an open mind regardless of the status of who is bringing the message. Her word is her bond and that people elected her 5 times as a Wayne County District Court Judge is evidence of her character. With 27 years of military experience in the United States Army her background, passion, and dedication to the residents in the City will make her a true asset to the City Council as a member.

I said thank you for your time, good luck to you, and thanks for stopping by District 2. In order to be selected, a candidate must get 5 votes from an existing council member. Good luck to all of them and the person selected will get the office between Council-members Cushingberry and Spivey.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Tax Relief Program.

By Richard Clement

If you live in one of these areas, you may qualify for a tax abatement of up to %50 for 15 years. Since 2006, the City of Detroit began a program offering tax relief to specific geographic areas. Many residents have been interested in this program, but are unsure how to go about it. 

Here are some frequently asked questions:

1: Who is eligible?
If you purchased your home after January 1, 1997, it is your principal residence, and you have completed $500 of improvements to your home since its purchase, you are likely eligible for a tax cut. Two-family properties are also eligible if it is the owner's principal residence.

2: How much is the reduction?
The NEZ tax abatement adjusts the rate of the City and County operating mills by 50%.* this millage rate varies yearly - therefore the NEZ millage rate varies also. *Only the City and County operating mills are abated - all other homestead mills are applicable.

3: How long does the tax abatement last?
15 years.

4: How do I apply?                       
You must apply in person at the City Assessor's Office, which is located in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Two Woodward Avenue, Room 804, Detroit, MI 48226.

5: Is there a deadline?
Yes. If you want to see tax relief for the next year, you must apply between the dates of April 1 – October 1. For example, if you recently purchased your home, you can apply between April 1 and October 1 of the current year to be eligible for the upcoming tax year. You do not have to reapply every year.

6: What documentation do I need to bring?
You will need to bring your driver's license and property deed.

7: My mortgage company pays my taxes through my escrow account. Do I have to inform them of this change?
It is a wise idea to notify your mortgage company of this program, once you have been approved, to transition the change of escrow more smoothly. The first year, and every eligible year thereafter, they will receive four tax bills: one for the land and one for the house (improvements), each summer and winter. This is due to the land on which your house sits is not eligible for this program, just the house itself. Under normal conditions, they would only receive two tax bills: winter and summer. If your mortgage company understand these bills, it may help avoid further mistakes later on.

8: How will I know when my taxes have been reduced?
You can log into the City of Detroit Assessment Department's Online Property Tax Payment and Information System: (Click Here for Online Property Tax Payment)

There is no charge for this system as long as you set up an account and verify only your own property. Changes will be noted after the next tax billing cycle.

Lower Your City of Detroit Property Taxes - Assessment Review Dates 2015

by Richard C. Clement

The City of Detroit Property Assessment Division will take request for an appeal of property values ONLY from Feb 1-15, 2015. If you feel that the value of your property is not accurate, please request an appeal, which can help reduce your property taxes. The Board of Assessors will review your request. Please contact the Board of Assessor’s Office directly at (313) 224-3011 for more information.

Board of Assessors

Assessment rolls are open for inspection February 1 - 15. An appeal of property values must be made during this time. 
Board of Review(requires appeal to Board of Assessors Review)
Begins on the Tuesday following the first Monday in March.

Board of Review (requires appeal to Board of Assessors Review)

·       Begins the Tuesday following the first Monday in March and ends the first Monday in April.

      Homestead Exemption Affidavits must be filed by May 1 each year.

·        Property Transfer Affidavits must be filed by the new homeowner with the City where the property is located within 45 days of the transfer. If it is not filed timely, a penalty of $5 per day (maximum $200) applies. 

Personal Property Statements must be filed not later than February 20.

Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Homestead Applications can be filed from April 1 till October 1st.

      Renaissance Zone Applications deadline is October 1. 
Michigan Tax Tribunal

Appeals must be filed by July 31 for Residential Property (requires appeal to Board of Review)

May 31 for Industrial and Commercial Real and Personal Property (Does not require appeal to Board of Review)
 July Board of Review
 Tuesday following the third Monday in July
 December Board of Review 
 Tuesday following the second Monday in December

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pushing with Pro-Tem Cush to upgrade Detroit Fire Department’s Technology.

By Richard C. Clement

"When it comes to old technology, friends don't let friends run junk"
   - Words from a retired computer systems pro in District 2

Detroit City Council President
Brenda Jones
                The Detroit City Council has approved a two year budget for the Detroit Fire Department that includes adding additional Emergency Medical Technician personnel and use of Global Positioning Software and Google Earth. DFD/EMS units will also have the ability to closely monitor runs to spot abusers or frequent flyers who use the EMS services for non-emergencies.  Calls are already being ranked by priority codes when someone calls in.  When the EMS unit arrives, the run is given a code and, a priority ranking system will determine if this caller’s address is in fact a frequent flyer.  Repeat offenders can be identified fairly quickly so that other agencies can provide the long term help these people need.

To cut down response time, the department has hired 66 new Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) in 2014 with another 34 graduating on January 23rd, 11:30am at the Detroit Public Safety Building.   DFD/EMS has acquired 15 new ambulances and have up to 12 Private Ambulance Providers that provide additional service during peak times of 1:00pm to 1:00am on call. An additional communications channel has been added to allow dispatch to communicate much better than before.

New ROMEO Non-Transport Units

DFD/EMS Rapid Response (ROMEO) Units
This two year budget allows for new ROMEO non-transport Rapid Response Units that are staffed by EMT’s. These units provide onsite medical service to someone until a transport unit arrives.  The color of these units are RED and they look like a small pickup truck. These units are so versatile that some of them are based at Detroit Police Precincts.  The last item of importance is the cross training of Firefighters as Medical First Responders that can give First Aid until an EMS transport unit arrives to take the person to a hospital.

With the new changes and funding the Detroit Fire Department EMS Units will be able to reduce response times and provide better services to the citizens of the City of Detroit.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Protecting the Retired after Bankruptcy with the Membership

By Richard C. Clement

What should Members do to protect their pensions from being exploited?

Be sure to monitor board proceedings and monthly statements regarding money management, and health care regarding the clawback feature of your benefits. As a part of the bankruptcy settlement, all that was taken from the retirees will be restored once the balance sheet shows a profit. All Americans must have health care as required by law. Therefore with the clawback feature of the Voluntary Employee Benefits Agreement (VEBA), retirees can ask for things like lower monthly premiums on their Affordable Care Act health insurance, $5.00 flat rate co-pay or, other incentives decided upon by the membership. 

To make this work, you must also go to meetings and participate. If you are not able to attend, you may want to consider having an advocate group or someone who has the time to monitor the accounting on the behalf of the groups. This would fully protect the Police and Fire Fighters who do not pay into Social Security and, General Retirees who do pay into Social Security and got screwed also. Therefore we must think outside the box and, in some cases just totally forget a box and think like a ball.

What is clawback?

One proposal is to use the clawback feature of the VEBA to look at alternative funding for City retirees health care and cost of living changes beyond their control.  With the language of Michigan Senate Bills 427151045439, and 5440, revenue from Provisioning Centers, Safe Testing Facilities and Industrial Hemp development (click here to see a hempcrete home) can be approved to fund retiree health care costs.  States like Colorado and Washington have generated over $300+ million dollars in revenue from Marijuana sales and agricultural Industrial Hemp development.

Products like concrete for bricks and drywall will help build homes and business from Industrial Hemp or the Male Cannabis plant. An investment into new construction projects like redesigning and reopening City Airport for Commercial air traffic is a proposal that will help generate revenue in the form of new business and blight elimination.  Trade schools encouraging public service jobs for youth and people in general who want a trade, job, or career is a sound investment in the future with pension funds. Why? because you need new business and skilled people to pay into the fund and, that requires knowledge and a well-paying job.  The late Mayor Coleman Young once said that solution to progress in Detroit is a well-paying job with a living wage.  This business plan worked for Henry Ford and, now we have to work a new plan for the City of Detroit.

With the recent federal convictions of prior pension board managers, we feel that the eyes of pension participants is of the utmost importance. Councilmember Pro-Tem Cushingberry Jr. welcomes the FBI, GAO, M.L. Elrick, Sharon Epperson, and anyone else who want to inspect the books of the City of Detroit regarding investments and money management. The retirees will never ever have to put up with this again without their knowledge. In other words the City of Detroit is welcoming you to look at the books and, one day it will be online in real time. With liberty and financial justice for all.

Stay tuned. - Good Stuff on the Internet