Leaders in Monroe County say what they thought was a negotiation with DTE Energy over a property tax reduction turned out to be anything but.
Without giving advance warning to negotiators, the utility has asked the Michigan Tax Tribunal to slash its property taxes in the county by nearly 60% over five years, because its coal-burning Monroe Power Plant and its nuclear plant, Fermi 2, have lost value.
Michael Bosanac is the county administrator. He says the utility had told negotiators it might seek a 45% reduction in taxes for the Monroe plant -- and that it would wait until next year to seek a reduction in taxes for Fermi 2.
Bosanic says such deep cuts to property taxes would hurt the county, the townships, and the city of Monroe.
"For the city of Monroe, that's 48% of its general fund revenue," says Bosanic, "so there's significant impact there."
The cuts would also eat into a property-tax funded millage that provides laptops and other technology for students in the county, along with the budget for the Monroe Intermediate School District, which provides services for special needs students.
Stephen McNew is Superintendent for the Monroe ISD. He says DTE is playing hardball. "In my opinion, this is big business shoving it down the throat of a small community," he says.
The utility says it does, in fact, intend to negotiate a reasonable agreement with taxing jurisdictions. In a statement, DTE Energy says the filings with the Michigan Tax Tribunal were "protective appeals that needed to be logged by a set deadline because agreements with local taxing jurisdictions were not completed."
DTE Energy says the value of coal generating plants is falling across the country, not only in Michigan, and it has a responsibility to ensure its property tax expenses reflect market realities.