New format for tax bills saves Bay City thousands of dollars

Wade Slivik turned a letter into a postcard, saving Bay City $50,000 and preserving thousands of trees.

It all began about five years ago when Slivik, the city assessor, was talking to a tax attorney about the city’s annual assessment notices. Each year, cities are required to mail notices detailing property values to owners. At that time, the city stuffed the notices into envelopes and mailed them.

Slivik was new in the job and reviewing state laws. He noticed the law about annual assessment notices didn’t list any requirements about the format for the information.

For the next year, Slivik played with the required information on those forms, trying to make it fit on a postcard. He consulted frequently with City Manager Dana Muscott, City Treasurer Donna Leitermann, and local U.S. Post Office officials.

“It first has to abide by state law,” Slivik says. “There were just kind of weird little niches that we just had to think through.”

The required information wouldn’t fit on a single postcard, so he devised a double card. He added one perforation so people could tear off a portion and mail it back with their payment. That tear-off has to fit in a standard-size envelope. He added a second perforation for a change-of-address card.

Bay City Hall is open, but outside drop boxes allow people to pay bills or return ballots without stepping inside.By 2017, he figured out how to squeeze all the mandatory information onto the double postcard and still meet U.S. Postal guidelines. Today, the city is still using the same basic formula for three mailings ­– the annual notice as well as summer and winter tax bills. The smaller size reduces postage and saves paper.

Slivik’s efforts are gaining attention.

“The city is always looking for ways to save the residents money, so when Wade brought this forward it was welcomed with open arms by the commission,” says Mayor Kathleen Newsham. “One thing that the city also encourages is recycling so this is just one more area where our residents are involved without having to put things out in their bin.”

The cost savings comes from several factors. Postage on a post card is about half of that on an envelope. The envelope itself costs 1 to 2 cents.

A double postcard contains all information the city is required to send property owners as part of their tax bill.Those pennies add up fast. The city is home to about 17,000 parcels of property, but some of the notices need to go to multiple addresses. For example, if the owner is selling the property on a land contract, a copy could go to both parties. Slivik estimates Bay City has saved about $50,000 with the new design.

In the beginning, Slivik wondered if people would accept the new format. “I was very, very, very worried about that,” Slivik says. But it appears to be working. He’s received about 100 of the change-of-address cards back.

He’s also had calls from other cities who want to adopt his format.

“What I’m finding out is that even though some people work at the state level and I work for the city and the assessor in Midland works for Midland, it’s all the same. We’re all trying to work together,” Slivik says.

Midland City Assessor Kayla Ripley says she adopted the new format for the 2020 summer tax bills. She estimates the new format will save the city about $6,500 each year in mailing costs.

“So far, we have had good feedback from the taxpayers,” Ripley says. “We need to tweak a couple of areas of the new format for the 2020 winter tax bills but that was expected as this is a new process.”

Slivik estimates that if every municipality adopted the new format, we’d save about 1,700 trees each year.

“When I first started doing this, I just wanted to do something fun and cool for the city,” Slivik says. “One thing lead to another and (other communities) asked if they could use it.”

To learn more about the City Assessor’s Office, click here to visit the city’s Facebook page or here to visit the Bay City website.

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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at