On January 15, 2024, Four Lakes Task Force held a public hearing on the computation of costs and special assessment rolls for the Four Lakes Special Assessment District (FL SAD). Over the entire day, 398 people attended - 137 verbally objected.
Total Annual Assessments Combined
The table below lists the total annual payment for both Operations & Maintenance (O&M) and Capital assessments for a range of property types. Almost all lakefront residential lots will have total annual payments between $1,400 to $2,805 per year, with the typical lakefront property at $2,105/year. Seven percent (7%) of the parcels with larger frontage in the SAD have a benefit factor greater than 1 and will pay over $2,805/year. Most backlots have a 0.25 benefit factor and will pay $705.
total annual payment for o&m and capital assessments
Note: Further changes to the assessment roll related to parcel combinations and factor changes stemming from the FL SAD public hearing will cause a slight change to these numbers, and financing rates may change these numbers. Currently, these are based on a 5% interest rate and a 40-year term. These are average numbers over the life of the financing. Please visit the FLTF website to find out more about the Capital Assessment and computation of costs.
Communications Prior to the Public Hearing
Before the January 15 hearing, FLTF held 84 hours of one-on-one meetings with engineers to assist property owners in understanding their assessments. FLTF also hosted two webinars on financing and assessments. The hearing and right to object were advertised to property owners by first class mail, email to over 6,000 subscribers, the Midland and Gladwin newspapers, as well as the FLTF and county websites.
FLTF accepted protests verbally on January 15th and by email and mail leading up to the hearing and until 5:45 pm on January 15th. Of the 6,640 property owners, 707 objected in person or writing - accounting for 10% of the FL SAD population.
Many of the 707 objections had multiple reasons but were classified based on the primary or leading theme in the objection. These were the results:
In a board meeting following the public hearing, the FLTF board approved the computation of costs for the 2025-2029 Operations and Maintenance and Capital Assessments as well as the associated rolls. FLTF will use this week to finalize adjustments made as a result of the public hearing and communicate to property owners on specific property issues, and update the maps.
Project Cost Increase
Market conditions and other major factors have driven price increases across each of the Four Lakes projects. The current restoration project cost estimate is $364,290,850, which is the gross estimate that includes construction, financing costs, and capitalized interest. With contingencies of $34,584,150 (9.5%), the total project cost is $398,875,000.
The $217.7 million financing cost is $137 million greater than the 2022 estimated range. Despite our efforts, FLTF was unable to mitigate the market inflation. Reasons for this increase were previously communicated in “Construction Cost Increase Summary.” These reasons are not to be taken as excuses. These costs are disappointing and FLTF understands the impact on our communities. Three actions are being taken, in
addition to focusing on containing and reducing costs:
The first Capital Assessment will not occur until the winter of 2025. FLTF will continue to work with our community and legislative representatives to identify additional funding to reduce the $137 million increase. We also continue to pursue grants.
Help for Those in Need
FLTF is committed to addressing this issue as stated in the 2021 FLTF Restoration plan. FLTF will engage with other non-profits and community leaders to set up a low-income assistance fund for assessment relief and plans to have this in place by 2025, before the start of the first Capital Assessment. The target audience for this would be seniors and people with disabilities, with low income, who have homestead properties in the Four Lakes SAD. FLTF is also advocating for other government resources, for example, the State of Michigan Homestead Act 225 of 1976 which supports deferred assessments for low-income individuals. It still exists but closed to new applicants starting in 2020. Several people in our community are already engaged in advocating for the reopening of this service.
Direct Use of Lake by Others
There is a concern among FL SAD property owners that all who use and benefit from the lakes should share in the cost, not just the property owners. The project is currently 45% funded by a State of Michigan appropriation, and while FLTF is advocating for additional funding, the methodology does include benefit factors for properties that benefit from bodies of water.
Private marinas, DNR properties, and public parks that provide access also pay an assessment. These non-resident parcels are paying $6.3 million which is 2.9% of the total assessment amount. We will work with the townships and counties to explore other practical areas of fee-based revenue for the use of the lakes.
FLTF Recommendation to the Counties
FLTF recognizes the assessment numbers are beyond the estimated range from 2021 before the state grant, and understands that many people feel we let them down. FLTF is committed to a successful outcome for the region, and appreciates those in the community coming forward to help advocate for more aid and funds.
The best opportunity to restore the lakes and reduce costs is in front of us: moving forward with the project and continuing to seek grants. The alternative path of not proceeding with financing would result in a loss of the lakes.
President and Chairperson
On behalf of the Four Lake Task Force Board of Directors
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