2011-10-30 / Front Page

U.S. Census: 20.7% of area children in poverty

BY NANCY R. ELLIOTT 810-452-2601  nelliott@mihomepaper.com

LAPEER COUNTY — The U.S. Census Bureau recently released their poverty estimates based on the 2010 American Community Survey. In Lapeer County, the estimated number of individuals living below the poverty level is 12,312, or 14.2 percent of the population. While that’s a sombering figure, it’s actually slightly better than the state’s overall poverty rate of 15.5 percent, and the country’s 15.1 percent, both reaching record highs.

Of Lapeer County’s 20,796 children under the age of 18 years, an estimated 4,297 are living in poverty, a rate of 20.7 percent.

The 2011 poverty guideline set by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services for a family of four is $22,350. For family unit of two, the number is $14,710. For an individual, it’s $10,890.

According to the estimates, 16 percent of the county’s female population lives in poverty, compared to 12.4 percent of the male population. The county population is almost evenly distributed between the sexes, according to the Census information.

Education is a key factor in the poverty equation. The Lapeer County data show that people who haven’t graduated from high school have the highest rate of poverty at 24 percent. Those who did graduate from high school have a rate of 13.3 percent. For those who have some college or an associate’s degree, the poverty rate in the county is estimated to be 9.5 percent. For those who have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, the rate is only 6 percent.

Among the poverty data for the labor force 16 years of age and over, unemployed persons not surprisingly reflect the highest rate of poverty, with 26.7 percent living below the poverty line. Even employment doesn’t guarantee defense against poverty, however, with 7.1 percent of employed persons in the county below the poverty level.

Although there may be an improved job outlook for the county based on recent information emerging from the Economic Growth Alliance that includes Lapeer County, Lapeer County residents and their government continue to cope with the realities that the economic downturn manifested. In addition to the numbers in poverty, many families have lost their homes to foreclosure, others hang in with the lost value on their homes. The county has suffered a 28 percent drop in state equalized value of properties since 2007. According to RealtyTrac, an average of one in every 236 housing units in the county received a foreclosure filing in September, with 943 foreclosure homes currently on the market.

Forty-three tax foreclosed properties went to auction this year, the same number as last year. Last week, Lapeer County Treasurer Dana Miller told Lapeer County commissioners that 29 tax foreclosed properties were sold at second land auction. She said that at the low end, a piece of vacant land in Clifford sold for $90. At the high end were 63 acres in Dryden that sold for $62,000.

The loss of property value impacts local government and its services through lost tax revenue even while millage rates remain relatively constant.

Lapeer County commissioners recently gave their stamp of approval to the apportionment report prepared by Equalization Director Kenneth ‘Greg’ Hill. The County Board of Commissioners approval is a necessary step preceding submission to the State Tax Commission of all the ad valorem millages apportioned in the county.

The county millage is one of the lowest in the state and remains currently at 3.7886 mills. That’s $3.79 per $1,000 of taxable value on a property.

In addition, there are extra voted millages including ones for E-911, Lapeer County Medical Care Facility (Suncrest), and Seniors totaling another 1.33 mills. Downtown Development Authorities and Tax Increment Finance Authorities capture more than a half million dollars from county tax revenues.

Residents around the county also support their local municipal governments with millages that run the gamut from 0.9116 mills in Hadley Township to 9.8 mills in Lapeer and 14.35 mills in Imlay City. In addition, there are extra voted millages in many of those municipalities. In Hadley Township, for example, residents provide another 1.1826 mills for fire and first responder protection. The apportionment report shows that the village of Clifford has a 11.2482 regular millage, with another 7.9218 in extra voted mills.

The apportionment report also reflects the school millages, library millages, GLTA and community college millages which serve county residents through their support.

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