Headlee Amendment Electors Mandate Not Applicable
In Newell v. Village of Otter Lake, Michigan Court of Appeals, No. 299543, November 15, 2011, a local assessment for a sanitary sewage system that was levied on all the parcels situated within a special assessment district did not violate the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution, Article IX, Section 31, because the fee was a user fee and not a tax. The Headlee Amendment prohibited units of local government from levying any tax not authorized by law without the approval of a majority of the qualified electors of the unit of local government.
The fee served a regulatory and not a revenue-raising purpose. It was assessed in order to cover the costs of treating sewage, and there was no evidence that the fee was disproportionate for this purpose. Although the fee did not meet the criterion of voluntariness, the court viewed the applicable criteria as a whole and concluded that the fee was a user fee and not a tax.