DNR buying large plot of land, could impact local school

DNR buying large plot of land could impact local school

OTSEGO COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is working on buying more than 2,000 acres of pristine land in Otsego County and making it available to the public, but doing that might have unintended consequences for a local school.

The land has been owned privately for years by someone who lives overseas.

The DNR has been trying to purchase the property for almost 20 years.

Besides making it open to the public, the land has timber resources, it connects to other large pieces of state land and it has a large elk population.

“It helps deter them from going on private property, crop damage issues, going out on roads," said Kerry Wieber, the forest land administrator for the DNR. "We’ve had issues with them being hit on I-75.”

The land is on the market right now for $3.8 million.

The DNR received about a quarter of that last December from the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board.

It is now asking for the remaining $2.7 million.

The Vanderbilt Area School Board raised concerns about the state buying the land back in September.

“If the DNR buys the property, then the school potentially would lose out on about $12,000 of tax revenue, and because we’re not a formula district, for us $12,000 is a lot of money," said Superintendent Rick Heitmeyer.

Heitmeyer says $12,000 in the school's budget is equivalent to what it pays in combined lawn and snow plowing services, or even the cost of hiring a classroom assistant.

"Could be great and be a positive for the community, but there’s the other side of it, where it could affect the school monetarily," Heitmeyer said.

On the school issue, Kerry Wieber says the school would probably lose the tax revenue no matter who buys it, because, if local, the news owner could have a homestead exemption which would lower the taxes.

The same could happen if the land is bought for agriculture or by and non-profit.

The DNR will learn next December if it will receive the rest of the finding it would need to but the property if it is still on the market.

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