Nonprofit Property Tax Bill Moves to Senate
The nonprofit property tax bill is headed to the Michigan Senate after it was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee last week. Senate Bill 960 is intended to offer clarity for charitable organizations when it comes to property taxes, providing consistency for local tax assessors across the state.
As CMF previously reported in the Weekly Download, the bill was introduced in May after more than 40 contested nonprofit property tax exemption cases were brought before the Michigan Tax Tribunal due to local tax assessor’s interpretations of charitable work.
"Nonprofits deserve clarity when it comes to property tax exemptions," State Senator Jack Brandenburg, chair of the Senate finance committee, said during last week’s hearing.
If passed, the bill will:
- Offer clarity and consistency to the process, it will not expand or restrict who’s eligible for property tax exemption
- Define what it means to be a charitable organization
- Require the State Tax Commission to work with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) to educate tax assessors about the changes
- Structure and modify the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in the Wexford case (Michigan tax assessors commonly follow the guidelines for charities noted in this case)
This legislation has been a two-year collaborative effort led by MNA and supported by CMF. A number of organizations testified at the Senate hearing last week in support of the bill including MNA, Hope Network and the Food Bank Council of Michigan.
Donna Murray-Brown, president and CEO of MNA, testified about the important work of charitable nonprofits, noting they lessen the burden on taxpayers and government and are “a good investment.”
Rob Collier, president and CEO of CMF sat in on the hearing in support of the legislation, along with more than 20 other organizations.
The state treasurer’s office opposed the bill, sharing a projected $50 million financial impact to the state if Senate Bill 960 is passed, due to fewer property tax bills. However, with all of the testimony there was a consensus that providing consistency and clarity to the process is important.
The bill now heads to the Senate floor. CMF will keep you updated on any developments with this legislation as it makes its way through the statehouse.
Heroin, Opioids on the Rise in MI Communities
In two months a West Michigan mother will decorate a Christmas tree at her son’s grave, a solemn tradition she’s been carrying out ever since she lost her 17-year-old to a heroin overdose. Sadly, such stories are becoming more common, we’ve seen the headlines of lost loved ones and the viral photos of overdosed parents, due to a raging epidemic.
Heroin and opioid (prescription pain relievers) deaths are on the rise in Michigan, a shocking 911 percent increase over the course of 15 years, according to the most recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services (MDHHS).
- 2014: 568 opioid deaths and 433 heroin deaths
- 1999: 62 opioid deaths and 37 heroin deaths
The lethal problem is evolving in our communities with the recent discovery of a drug cocktail using heroin mixed with elephant tranquilizer (a drug 10,000 times stronger than morphine) in our state.
Prescription drug abuse is fueling the heroin and opioid epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with at least half of all opioid overdose deaths involving a prescription opioid. There’s a clear link in our state: Michigan ranks 10th nationally in per capita opioid prescriptions and 18th in the nation for all overdose deaths.
Experts say they’re seeing patients go from one doctor to another to get opioid painkillers, and once they’re addicted they search for something stronger, leading them to heroin.
Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Michigan, a CMF member, developed a system flagging those who fill multiple prescriptions and bill their insurance. BCBS of Michigan is also trying to educate doctors about other options for patients.
"We're trying to work with physicians to make sure they're only prescribing opioids to the right patients and they're not over-prescribing," Laurie Wesolowicz, director of Pharmacy Services Clinical at BCBS of Michigan said.
In Southwest Michigan another CMF member, the Battle Creek Community Foundation, has been heavily involved in the development of a new addiction recovery center. The center was a collaborative effort between the community foundation, local police department and health providers and agencies. The center offers a welcoming area for those who need someone to talk to, as well as extensive treatment services. The foundation donated the building to make the addiction recovery center a reality.
Last year a state task force shared recommendations to help battle the drug problem, which led to the development of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission.
What can funders do? Recommendations include supporting:
- Additional training and continuing education for medical professionals on how to treat opioid addiction
- Campaigns to inform the public about the dangers of opioid abuse
- Exploration of ways to increase access to care
Barriers Continue to Face Children of Color in MI Schools
Children of color in Michigan are facing barriers to achievement and future success, due to a lack of equity in our state’s policies and educational system, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP). The MLPP released a new report, Race, Place & Policy Matter in Education, examining the growing challenges and the need for improvements.
“As our work finds time and again, there are racial disparities in nearly every area of public policy—health, reading proficiency, school suspensions and expulsions, college attainment and student debt, incarceration rates, employment and income,” Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the MLPP said.
The report shows 46 percent of Michigan students were considered “economically disadvantaged” last school year -- African American students were twice as likely to fall into that category.
The report highlights evidence of the achievement gap:
- The state’s M-STEP test results show eight out of 10 African American students and two-thirds of Latino students are not proficient in Language Arts by the end of third grade
- Fewer children of color are completing high school on time
- According to SAT scores, only one in 10 African American high schoolers in Michigan was considered college-ready last school year
While the MLPP shares research highlighting the disparities in school achievement between children of color and their white peers, what are some of the factors at play?
The MLPP details equity barriers:
- Lack of economic and educational opportunities for parents: Latino and African American parents in Michigan are much more likely to lack a high school diploma limiting their job opportunities and housing options.
- Budget and public policies that don’t adequately address the costs associated with educating children in high-poverty schools: Students in high-poverty schools are 45 percent less likely to be proficient in reading by fourth grade.
- Inequitable discipline practices: African American students have higher rates of suspensions and they are more than twice as likely to be expelled from school.
Helping children of color and their families overcome these barriers requires additional resources. The MLPP said there’s a misconception on equity vs. equality in our education system, noting that while providing the same per-pupil funding to all schools would increase equality of educational financing it doesn’t address the higher costs needed to educate children in high-poverty schools.
- Create a two-generation educational agenda addressing literacy and educational achievement for parents and children
- Provide funds needed to improve high-poverty schools
- Improve access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education
The MLPP urges the state to fully fund its At-Risk School Aid program that provides funds to high-poverty schools and adopt school disciplinary policies aimed at reducing inequities in suspensions and expulsions.
Former Coal Dock Turned Waterfront Park With Support From Rotary Charities of Traverse City
Discovery Pier, Traverse City’s newest waterfront attraction, is now open to the public thanks to a $1 million grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City.
Once a dock used to transport coal, the site is now home to four water-based nonprofit organizations and offers pristine waterfront views along the famous M-22 highway. While Traverse City is known for its waterfront and tourism, early needs assessment work for Discovery Pier and the Discovery Center demonstrated great demand for public access to Grand Traverse Bay.
“It’s a chance to share a bit of Michigan history and offer access to the water," Rotary Camps and Services Trustee, Bob Stowe, said. "We’re hoping people will walk or ride to the pier and see the area from a different perspective. The pier will be a recreational anchor for the public.”
According to the Discovery Center and Pier website, with the Pier, the Discovery Center will be able to expand the Discovery Center's water-based experiential learning programs for families and other community groups, provide more waterfront access and affordable or free activities, and nurture a community-wide attitude of stewardship of the Great Lakes.