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Three millages passed by the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in the past year have been declared illegal by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The Headlee Amendment, passed in 1978, was designed to limit the ability of municipalities to levy taxes without express approval of residents. The amendment disallowed any new types of taxes from being levied without voter approval and set a limit on the total allowable taxation by counties. - Ben Freed, MLive, 10-28-2015

Under the terms of the 1978 Headlee amendment, the county's total operating tax levy is capped at 4.5493 mills. Without voter approval the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners in the past year has enacted three taxes that take the total above the county's Headlee millage limit.

According to Bill Schuette's legal opinion, the millages are illegal because the county already levies that 4.5493 mill tax.

How did Commissioners react?

"The attorney general's opinion is just that, an opinion," - Commissioner Alicia Ping, (R-Saline)


"The attorney general's opinion is more than just an opinion," - Commissioner Dan Smith (R-Northfield Township).


News Reports and Resources:

MLive: Taxpayers United Michigan Chair Warns Of Lawsuit At County Board Meeting, Ben Freed, 11-5-2015

Minutes of the November 4, 2015 County Board of Commissioners meeting, 11-18-2015

MLive: Michigan AG Bill Schuette says some Washtenaw County taxes are illegal, Ben Freed, 10-28-2015

MLive: Tax proposals could appear on Washtenaw County ballots in March, Ben Freed, 10-28-2015

Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Opinion No. 7287: Levy of property taxes in excess of constitutional limitations, 10-21-2015

It is my opinion, therefore, that, without a vote of the county’s electorate, a
general law county may not levy pre-Headlee taxes as authorized by Const 1963, art
9, § 31 in excess of (1) the 15-mill limitation as allocated annually by the county tax
allocation board under Const 1963, art 9, §6, or (2) its specific share of the 18-mill
limitation as fixed by the county voters under art 9, § 6.


MLive: Washtenaw County to consider extending 0.5-mill road tax, Ben Freed, 8-20-2015

After deciding not to put a 10-year road funding millage on March's ballot at its last meeting, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will consider extending a one-year millage on its own.


The county's road commission will present plans at the board's Sept. 2 Ways and Means Committee meeting to renew a 0.5-mill property tax using Public Act 283—which does not require a vote of the public.

MLive: 10-year road repair millage could appear on November Washtenaw County ballot, Ben Freed, 7-2-2015

MLive: Washtenaw County OKs 1-year property tax to raise $7.3M for road repairs, Ben Freed, 10-2-2014

A number of speakers, including Ann Arbor Township Supervisor Michael Moran, Ann Arbor resident Douglas Smith and Taxpayers United Michigan Foundation state chairman Bill McMaster said they believed passage of the millage would be illegal under the Michigan constitution.


Following a public hearing and lengthy debate, the board voted 6-3 to approve the 0.5-mill tax that is expected to raise approximately $7.3 million for projects to be completed in 2015.

MLive Poll: Do you support a Washtenaw County road tax?, Ben Freed, 10-1-2014

Ann Arbor Chronicle: County Tax Hike for Economic Development?, Mary Morgan, 9-13-2012

Michigan Compiled Laws: View or Download the Headlee Amendment

Everything You wanted to Know About County Government but Didn't Know Who to Ask - NNToday, 11-10-2015

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners: biographies, contact email addresses


Taxpayers United: Bill McMaster was Dick Headlee's partner in getting the Headlee Amendment passed.

Washtenaw Watchdogs: Blogger Doug Smith spoke at the October 1, 2014 BOC meeting in which the Road Tax first passed.