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Monday, July 13, 2020

Mayor Fouts accused of unilaterally increasing the city's tax rates as officials call for an investigation

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 12:02 PM

click to enlarge Warren Mayor Jim Fouts. - CITY OF WARREN
  • City of Warren
  • Warren Mayor Jim Fouts.

Elected officials in Warren are accusing Mayor Jim Fouts of unilaterally increasing the city’s property tax rates, in violation of state law.

During a special session Saturday, the Warren City Council voted unanimously to take legal action against Fouts, saying he altered a document to increase the 2020 tax rate beyond what the council approved.

Warren Treasurer Lori Barnwell is calling on the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to investigate the dispute, saying she doesn’t want to send tax bills to residents until she knows the rates are “correct and lawful.”

“I will NOT be pressured to overtax Warren residents unless a court of law or Attorney General orders me to do so,” Barnwell said in a statement to Metro Times. “This is out of my hands and beyond me at this point.”

At issue is the city’s new fiscal year budget, which the council approved on June 30. The council reduced the library millage from 0.8275 to 0.6 mills, saying there’s enough money in reserves to lower the rate without impacting operations.

Under state law, a municipality’s budget must be approved by the council.

But for reasons that remain unclear, the council said Fouts altered a state tax form and unilaterally restored the library’s millage rate. Council members plan to ask a court to impose the approved tax rate.

Fouts could not be reached for comment.

The dispute is just the latest between the city council and Fouts. In the new budget, the council eliminated the job of Amanda Mika, whose salary more than doubled she she was caught holding hands with Fouts in 2014.

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