Michigan residents seek lower property tax bills

DETROIT (AP) -- Many Michigan residents seeing lower tax bills after their homes' value fell significantly last year are now going before local tax appeal boards to argue that they deserve even more tax relief.

The overwhelming majority of Michigan homeowners will get a tax cut this year because their home prices and, in most cases, their taxable values sank in 2009.

But many are asking for even steeper reductions, often by comparing their home to a nearby home that recently sold.

The Detroit Free Press sent three reporters to visit several boards of review to hear what these homeowners were saying and what review board members said in response.

In Troy, homeowners got instant answers from the local tax appeal board after give-and-take and questions from the board members.

Mike Kowalski, a laid-off auto engineer turned real estate agent, came armed with compelling numbers when he had his 10 minutes with the Troy Board of Review.

He noted in his pitch to the board that his home has the original carpet, his cabinets are from 1983 and his in-ground pool is 24 years old. Kowalski compiled statistics on comparable properties right down to the value per square foot.

"I'm the guy with one of the smallest colonials in the sub," he told the board. "I don't feel that's a bona fide reason to overassess me."

Kowalski succeeded in his appeal and the board reduced the value of his home $15,000 to $271,000, which will reduce his tax bill about $260 a year.

"I guess you can fight City Hall," he said after winning the reduction.

Others didn't get quick answers.

Jacquelyne Carter was shocked when she received an assessment notice valuing her five-bedroom home in Southfield at $102,000 just a few weeks after she paid $80,000 for it. That will cost her about $600 more each year in taxes than she had budgeted.

She took her case to the Southfield Board of Review.

"I asked them to make it at least what I paid for it," she said. "I'll go to the tax tribunal if I have to."

Rafik Quteibi was optimistic that his taxes would be lowered after meeting with the board of review in Shelby Township.

Quteibi came well prepared, handing board members a 2-inch-thick pile of assessments of houses in his neighborhood.

Five houses of comparable or larger size were valued below the $240,000 that township officials said his 3,258-square-foot brick house was worth.

"You really did your homework," a board member said.

Quteibi left with his arm around his girlfriend. He hopes to raise a family in his large brick home.

"I'm going to get married soon, and I think this is the perfect location. I just think the appraisal is too high," he said.

Published: Tue, Mar 30, 2010


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