The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
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    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Sen. Caswell discusses tax proposals 2013.02.20

Written by David Green.


Michigan's personal property tax for businesses is scheduled to disappear, but it's not that simple. State senator Bruce Caswell spoke to the Morenci city council last week about some details of the plan, and also about proposals to change the gasoline tax.

The personal property tax is paid by businesses for a range of items including machinery, furniture and computers. Caswell characterized the tax as "a barrier to business investment and expansion" in Michigan.

Beginning in January 2014, the tax will end for businesses that have personal property valued at $40,000 or less. That will account for about 75 percent of tax returns filed each year.

For firms with personal property values exceeding $40,000, the tax will be eliminated in two phases.

Removing the tax will result in losses to city and county government units, but legislators created two ways to cover a portion of the shortfall.

First, local government units will have to take the initiative to place a special assessment on local business above the $40,000 value level. The assessment can be large enough to recoup the cost of the "essential services" of police, fire, ambulance and jails.

Voters would have to approve a second mechanism that would allow municipalities to recover an estimated 80 percent of lost revenue.

In August 2014, Caswell said, voters will be asked to approve a measure that would take 1.5 percent of the existing 6.0 percent use tax and give that to local government units. Governments could use those funds for services other than the essential services listed above. Caswell said this should replace about 80 percent of lost revenue.

If voters approve the change, the process of eliminating the personal property tax moves forward. If the measure is turned down, then everything goes back to the way it is now.

Caswell advised council members to make their local business leaders well aware of the consequences of a "no" vote.

Caswell said the 6.0 percent use tax is like a sales tax for items moved between businesses. The state treasury office defines the use tax as a "remote sales tax" for taxes owed on items purchased outside the state.

Michigan residents are required to pay a 6.0 percent tax on items purchased by catalog, telephone or the internet from out-of-state sellers, as well as purchases made while traveling in foreign countries and then brought back to Michigan.

One-third of the revenue from the use tax goes to schools, Caswell said, and that won't change. The other two-thirds goes to the state treasury. Tax credits given to businesses in recent years will be expiring, he said.

"We hope that will equal the one and a half percent we're setting aside," Caswell said. He said it's a risk the state is willing to take.

GASOLINE TAX—Caswell told council members about three proposals for raising revenue to pay for road and bridge maintenance.

"We can either keep doing what we're doing with the money we've got and get by the best we can," he said, "or the other option is to raise revenue."

Gov. Rick Snyder proposed last year an increase in the fuel tax from 19 cents a gallon (15 cents for diesel fuel) to 33 cents a gallon. There would an inflation increase of about one cent a year. The proposal includes an increase of about 80 percent a year on vehicle registration fees.

The rationale behind the governor's plan is that those who use the roads the most would pay the most for maintenance.

It's not a popular choice, Caswell said, and he favors a plan that would require all state residents to pay in the form of a sales tax increase. A one-cent increase would bring in $1.2 billion which is about what's needed for repair work, he said.

The vast majority of constituents he's spoken with favor the sales tax increase because their costs would come in small increments rather than with every gasoline fill-up.

He's been told it's a much fairer way than the fuel tax increase, although critics look at the sales tax as a regressive tax, meaning that it affects lower income residents much more than high income people since it takes a larger percentage of their income.

Caswell said a third alternative is to raise the sales tax by two cents and eliminate the fuel tax.

"The money would be constitutionally dedicated to transportation," Caswell said. "It would be similar to Proposal A that dedicated two cents of the tax to schools."

Caswell wants voters to decide on the sales tax increase, noting that if it doesn't pass, then the governor's fuel tax increase would take effect.

"The gas tax is no longer an effective tax for paying for roads," he said, because people aren't buying as much fuel.

Caswell said it's a similar situation to the increase in the cigarette tax that resulted in less smoking.

"Any time you tax something more, you're going to use less of it," he said.

The cost of gasoline led to his decision to buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

"That makes a whole lot more sense than driving around in a Chrysler 500," Caswell said. "I can look like a big shot, but I'm only going to get 20 miles per gallon. People are making these decisions every day."

With the rise of hybrids and electric cars, even less fuel will be sold.

The gas tax is the same for every gallon of fuel sold, regardless of the cost of gasoline, he said. With a sales tax, the higher cost of gasoline brings in more tax revenue.

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