Workers’ Comp Fund issues more than $23,000 in Loss Prevention Grants to county agencies

The Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund (MCWCF) has awarded grants to agencies in eight counties to help reduce employee accidents and injuries.

These sums are part of the MCWCF’s Loss Prevention Grants Program, started in 2014. With this round of grants, totaling more than $23,000, the MCWCF has now handed out about $100,000.

“The growth of our Loss Prevention Grants Program is one of the most impressive recent developments at MCWCF,” said Timothy K. McGuire, the fund’s executive director. “These investments are part of a virtuous circle for our members and the fund overall.”

See the full list of recipients.

MAC’s McGuire makes case for new revenue for roads on ‘The Big Show’

McGuireMAC Executive Director Tim McGuire used an appearance on “The Big Show” with Michael Patrick Shiels to make the case that only new revenue will propel the state out of its roads crisis.

“”Do we want dirt roads? … The point is, if you are going to fix the roads, you have to raise revenue. … We have to raise some revenues to pay for the roads. It’s just gotta be done,” McGuire said.

MAC’s Board of Directors, made up of county commissioners from across the state, has long supported a tax increase to generate the new dollars necessary to jump-start maintenance on our crumbling roads.

Allegan County wins top national award for digital practices

Mark DeYoung (second from left) and Jon Campbell (second from right) accept Allegan County's first place award in the 2015 Digital Survey Awards. (courtesy photo)

Mark DeYoung (second from left) and Jon Campbell (second from right) accept Allegan County’s first place award in the 2015 Digital Survey Awards. (courtesy photo)

Allegan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark DeYoung and fellow Allegan Commissioner Jon Campbell were presented the first place award in the Center for Digital Government’s 2015 Digital Survey Awards at the National Association of Counties’ Annual Conference this week.

Allegan, which won in the under 150,000 population category, was honored for offering 27 different online services, including its online GIS Data Library, which citizens and customers can download at no cost. Judges also made note of the county’s Connect with Us social media portal and its collaboration with Kent and Ottawa counties on procurement. “This solution and the consortium created by these three counties serve as a model for other municipalities across the state of Michigan,” the judges wrote.

Commissioner Don Disselkoen accepts Ottawa County's digital award at the NACo Annual Conference in North Carolina. (courtesy photo)

Commissioner Don Disselkoen accepts Ottawa County’s digital award at the NACo Annual Conference in North Carolina. (courtesy photo)

Campbell also serves as president of the MAC Board of Directors.

Several other Michigan counties received honors at the event.

Oakland County won third place in the over 500,000 category for its suite of programs, including a countywide social media strategy, its G2G (Government to Government) Marketplace.

Commissioner Don Disselkoen of Ottawa County, also a MAC Board member, was on hand to pick up his county’s sixth place award in the 250,000 to 449,999 category.

Jackson County Commissioner Sarah Lightner poses with her county's award. (courtesy photo)

Jackson County Commissioner Sarah Lightner poses with her county’s award. (courtesy photo)

Jackson County Commissioner Sarah Lightner accepted her county’s 10th place award in the 150,000 to 249,999 category. Berrien County received fifth place in the same population category.

The 2015 Digital Counties Survey, conducted by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, highlights counties across the country that are digital leaders. Established in 1984, e.Republic is the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on state and local government and education.

“This is an outstanding example of how Michigan counties are using innovation and technology to protect and enhance public services in tight budgetary times,” said Tim McGuire, executive director of MAC. “As these results show, counties of any size can find new ways to help their residents.”

Alger, Jackson counties land Environmental Protection Agency grants to rehabilitate brownfield sites

munising pic

Downtown Munising.

Two members of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) were informed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently that their grant applications for brownfield assessments were accepted.

Alger County will receive $196,100, while Jackson County will get $400,000. Each county was approved for “community-wide” assessments, the EPA announced.

For Alger County, the successful notice comes after several years of tweaking proposals to address longstanding contamination issues, assisted by MAC’s Grant Services Program.

“This grant took a different and creative approach by only requesting enough funds to address redevelopment problems and financial barriers at the top four highest priority brownfield sites in the county,” explained Gabriel Zawadzki, who leads MAC’s Grant Services Program. “Three of these sites are located in the heart of downtown Munising along M28 — the major northern corridor through the Upper Peninsula and the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”

Alger County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jerry Doucette said the county is eager to get to work to bring these properties back into productive use.

“We were fortunate to have the assistance of MAC and its experts at AKT Peerless and Envirologic to ensure that, this time, we would be successful in convincing the EPA of the importance of our proposal,” added Doucette, who also serves as first vice president of MAC.

In all, the EPA approved seven of the 26 applications from Michigan in this round of funding. In addition to Alger and Jackson counties, the successful applicants were: the city of Detroit, the Downriver Community Conference, the Genesee County Land Bank, the city of Lansing and the Muskegon Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. Total funding gained via the grants exceeds $2.5 million.

MAC prez: Bring ‘dark stores’ problem to a halt

MAC President Jon Campbell is an Allegan County commissioner.

MAC President Jon Campbell is an Allegan County commissioner.

MAC President Jon Campbell took to the pages of the Detroit Free Press today (May 29) to draw more attention to the growing crisis presented to local government services by the “dark stores” property tax technique:

“This gaming of the system, known in tax circles as the ‘dark stores’ technique, must come to a halt before counties and communities across Michigan are stripped of the resources to operate basic public services.

“Here’s how it works: Lawyers for the retailers convinced the Michigan Tax Tribunal, an unelected panel with jurisdiction over property tax appeals, to drop the traditional method of valuing such property based on the cost to construct a store, and instead, they convinced the tribunal to set values based on ‘comparable sales.’ These comparable sales, however, are few and far between in the world of big box retailing, which means comparisons are often to vacant structures or buildings that have been converted to unusual or non-retailing uses.

“Retailers may also use deed restrictions to ensure that when they upgrade to a new or larger facility, their old facility can’t be purchased and utilized by a competing retailer, resulting in more boarded-up buildings in our communities.”

MAC, led by Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth, has been working closely with key legislators, such as Sen. Tom Casperson, and other government officials to craft a legislative fix to the dark stores problem.

Treasury releases county-by-county liquor tax estimates

Liquor-StoreThe Michigan Department of Treasury reports that liquor tax distributions to counties will decline to $49.88 million in fiscal 2016, from $73.75 million in fiscal 2015.

The 4 percent liquor tax that gets distributed to counties across the state is set to expire at the end of 2015. Back in 2008, the Legislature refinanced the Cobo Hall facility in Detroit and extended the liquor tax. As part of that package of bills, counties would still receive the liquor tax, but would be limited to receiving only that amount that was collected in their county. Currently the liquor taxes collected in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties are distributed to the rest of the counties. In essence, the liquor taxes collected in those three counties have subsidized the amounts to the rest of the state. In FY 2015, those 80 counties are receiving approximately 200 percent of the liquor taxes actually paid in their jurisdictions.

For FY16, Treasury says, “The 80 ‘out-state’ counties will receive 101 percent of the FY 15 liquor tax collections in their county. Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne share 101 percent of the FY 15 liquor tax collections in the three counties, which is estimated to be a slight increase compared to their estimated FY 15 distribution. Macomb and Oakland counties get a portion of the liquor taxes collected in Detroit.”

To see the county-by-county figures, click here.

MAC still sees simple, direct election on 1-cent sales tax boost as best way to address roads crisis

transport funds 10-17-14The Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) reiterated today its longstanding support for a statewide vote to increase the sales tax by 1 penny, with all new funds generated dedicated to road work.

Jon Campbell, president of the MAC Board of Directors and an Allegan County commissioner, said in the wake of Tuesday’s defeat of Proposal 1:

“Voters in Michigan are telling public servants three things: They want more money for our crumbling roads. They want a direct, simple plan. They want to ensure new revenue is dedicated to roads.

“More than a year ago, the MAC Board of Directors decided the best plan for our state was a 1-penny increase in the sales tax dedicated to roads. We still see it as a simple, direct approach that raises the funds to address the crisis. And, based on the EPIC-MRA poll results released May 5, nearly two-thirds of voters would support it.

“Our membership, 622 county commissioners across the state, is eager to work with the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder to quickly and decisively handle this challenge.”

State offers grant funds for county veteran benefits jobs

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency is now accepting grant applications to fund new staff positions in counties to assist military veterans with benefit claims.

Under provisions of Public Act 252 of 2014, funds will be distributed with preference to counties that have not previously established a veteran services office or department.

Grant amounts will run from $3,000 to $20,000. See the filing instructions for complete details.

Click here to access a copy of the application cover sheet.

For additional information on the grants program, contact the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency at 800-MICH-VET.

MAC committees to review hotel taxes, fracking fees

MAC committees on the environment and economic development are tackling some intriguing issues in their sessions on April 17.

The Economic Committee will be looking at the value of altering state law on hotel/motel taxes. The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has produced a handy one-page summary of what current law allows.

The Environmental Committee will hear from Krystle Sacavage of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission about that state’s regulations and “impact fees” on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

If you are a commissioner interested in serving on one of MAC’s committees (Environmental and Regulatory Affairs; Economic Development and Taxation; Judiciary and Public Safety; Health and Human Services; and Transportation) contact Casey Steffee at steffee@micounties.org for an application and more information.

House GOP plan offers opportunity to bolster county services

MAC logo blueytLANSING, Mich. – County officials across Michigan are ready to work with majority Republicans in the Michigan House on key elements of their 2015 “Action Plan,” which was released today in Lansing.

The Michigan Association of Counties, which represents the 622 county commissioners across the state, sees fertile ground to nurture reform on several issues that counties deal with on a daily basis:

  • Tax-capture reform: MAC is pleased that the House GOP noted that tax increment financing by municipalities “is leaving other levels of government collecting a fraction of what they otherwise would.” MAC has long worked at the State Capitol to bring fairness and collaboration to the tax-capture process.
  • Road commission merger authority: MAC agrees with House Republicans that, “The provisions in law that allow county boards of commissioners to consolidate their road commissions under the umbrella of general county government must be reinstated.” That authority expired at the end of 2014 and it should be a top priority for the Legislature to act on restoration in 2015.
  • Community mental health: “There is a continued need to further explore and evaluate policy and budgetary solutions to ensure that those with mental-health needs, and their loved ones, have access to quality and consistent care,” the plan states. Michigan counties know this all too well and will continue to educate policy-makers and the public on the nuances and demands of proper mental health services.
  • Sentencing reform: MAC understands and supports the need to reduce the prison budget’s huge bite on state resources, but changes in sentencing must be made in such a way that county jails and county taxpayers are not left holding the bill.
  • Veteran services: It’s vital to reverse the trends that have left Michigan near the bottom of national rankings on services to our veterans.
  • Public notices: Laws to ensure transparency written with 19th century techniques in mind should and can be updated to protect the public interest while reducing the financial burden on county coffers.

“We are generally pleased with the course being charted by the House leadership,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “And we stand ready to hammer out the details to make these goals into policy. But that requires a balancing act by lawmakers. For example, it’s great for them to urge a focus on the long-term liabilities of local governments, but they can’t, at the same time, be looking to enact more property tax exemptions that drain the very funds that local governments need to cover their liabilities.”

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For more information on MAC, go to www.micounties.org. Deena Bosworth is available to speak to the media on this topic. She can be reached at (800) 258-1152 or Bosworth@micounties.org.