Counties to get revenue sharing boost for fourth straight year

Michigan counties will receive $221.4 million in revenue sharing payments from the state via a fiscal 2019 budget bill approved by a legislative conference committee this week. The full Legislature is expected to approve the plan next week and send to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The fiscal 2019 figure will be $1.3 million higher than the FY18 number.

“These figures have been unsettled for weeks,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “It’s important to remember the debate started in Lansing this year with the governor proposing a 1 percent cut from FY18 levels. We are now leaving the Legislature with a 0.5 percent increase, relative to FY18.

“On behalf of our members, we extend our appreciation to the members of the Appropriations Committees in both chambers for making this the fourth consecutive budget year with an increase in revenue sharing payments,” Bpsworth added.

Built into the revenue sharing figures is a $1 million in one-time appropriation that counties are directed to use toward pension or OPEB obligations or debt.

See county-by-county estimates for fiscal 2019.

Antrim, Keweenaw and Mackinac counties return to the formula in FY19 with partial-year payments. That leaves only Emmet and Leelanau still drawing from their Revenue Sharing Reserve Funds that began in 2004 as counties pulled ahead local property tax revenue in an agreement with the state to provide significant state budget relief by temporarily ending revenue sharing payments.

“We are pleased, obviously, that the Legislature has again increased the amount,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “However, as our members know all too well, the money committed is not nearly enough to cover the mandates the state has placed on counties for local public services. MAC will continue to educate legislators on that point and build on the momentum we have gained in recent years.”

In additional budget news:

Health, Human Services, Courts

  • County hold harmless on foster care agency per diem is retained, which is an $8 million savings for counties. The budget implementation bill (SB 988) that is likely to pass next week will eliminate the sunset on the county hold harmless.
  • $5.5 million for administrative rate payments and $9.9 million in per diem payments for unlicensed relative foster care providers per the Glisson federal court decision.
  • Boilerplate language to require the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to maintain the federal foster care appeals process in place as of Sept. 30, 2017, rather than the DHHS proposed policy to remove ability for locals to formally appeal.
  • $4.5 million General Fund (GF) increase for essential local public health services and $4.4 million from the General Fund for emerging public health threats.
  • $5.5 million GFT for non-Medicaid mental health services to hold harmless Community Mental Health agencies (CMHs) that may be hurt by the new FY19 GF funding formula.
  • $11 million GF increase for growth in caseload for Healthy Michigan plan mental health services and substance use disorder services.
  • Section 298 language was removed that would have allowed Medicaid Health Plans in the pilot regions to receive all the Medicaid funds without contracting with the CMH in that pilot community.
  • $750,000 in a one-time increase specialty court grants.
  • $700,000 retained to comply with the juvenile lifer without parole court decision. The executive budget removed this, which would have shifted cost to counties. Legislators later revised the recommendation to include the funds.

Transportation

  • Additional $121.3 million to local road agencies, bringing total local road agency funding to $1.37 billion for fiscal 2019. County road agencies will receive $77.9 million of the increase.
  • $300 million in one-time GF distributions to road agencies, of which counties will receive $117.3 million. This yields a combined increase of $195.2 million year-over-year for county roads.
  • Additional $2.5 million for local transit operating costs to the 81 local public transit agencies.

Agriculture

  • Additional $525,700 for grants to eligible county fairs, shows and expositions.

Millage elections, meeting mechanics, rural broadband among topics for 2018 MAC Regional Summits this summer

Each summer, MAC offers a series of one-day “mini conferences” at key locations around Michigan. These are designed for busy commissioners and administrators and include intensive briefings on trending issues in county governance.

This year’s schedule and locations are:

  • June 6: Escanaba, Quality Inn
  • June 11: Grand Rapids, Crowne Plaza on 28th Street
  • June 18: Gaylord, Treetops Resort
  • July 23: Frankenmuth, Bavarian Inn

Each summit starts at 9 a.m. and finishes at 3 p.m. Cost is $25 and includes snacks and a lunch. CLICK  HERE to register.

Topics this year are wide-ranging, offering something of interest to every county and commissioner:

Tips for Running Efficient, Effective Meetings (all sites)
Time is a precious resource, especially for elected officials. Each minute spent in an unproductive meeting is a lost minute of community outreach and engagement. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to running an efficient and productive meeting, helping lead to optimal governance. In this session, learn about ways to handle unexpected scenarios at a county meeting, as well as best practices for chairs and vice chairs. With solid objectives, a tight agenda, and a commitment to preparation, you will be well on your way to chairing great meetings. (This session is part of MAC’s “Better Commissioner” program of continuing education for county officials.)

Managing Liability and Risks in County Government (all sites)
(UPDATED)
An attorney working with the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority, the largest provider of property and casualty insurance to counties in Michigan, will give an overview of best practices and points to consider on sexual harassment in the workplace and how public leaders can combat it.

The Mechanics of Millage Elections (all sites)
In this session, attendees will learn from Grassroots Midwest, a Lansing-based consulting firm, on the five key elements of a successful millage or bond proposal:

-Define the needs of the community
-Craft the core message
-Develop a media/communications campaign
-Contact/educate relevant stakeholders
-Get out the vote

Grassroots specializes in strategic planning to assist associations, municipalities and corporations organize and manage contact with policy makers, interest groups and voters. (This session is part of MAC’s “Better Commissioner” program of continuing education for county officials.)

The Issues of a Statewide Septic Code (all sites)
Michigan’s groundwater, rivers, lakes and streams are vulnerable to E. coli, in many cases due to failing on-site sewage treatment systems. Many counties have programs to address the inspection and the integrity of the septic tanks, but many do not. Bills in the Legislature would enact a statewide system for the approval and evaluation of these on-site sewage treatment systems. This presentation will discuss the environmental and health problems associated with the failure of these systems and the potential solutions for addressing the shortfalls.

Broadband Policies and Rural Michigan (Escanaba and Frankenmuth only)
This session will focus on rural development with an emphasis on rural connectivity. Due to the natural barriers that exist in our rural areas, access to services such as rural broadband presents an uphill challenge to our rural communities in retaining and attract businesses to create vibrant economies. Learn about ideas and ongoing initiatives and programs that may be available to help local communities be part of the global economy.

Building a Better Community “Habitat” (Grand Rapids and Gaylord only)
Habitat Oakland County teamed up with a local partnership from the church community, the chamber of commerce, a local marketing business and schools to create a community-based service project. In this session, learn from representatives on how they worked to obtain foreclosed properties and renovate them, thereby leading to higher property values and healthier neighborhoods. Presenters also will explain how any community can use their collaboration model to create a better “habitat.”

Michigan county leaders consult with federal lawmakers during Capitol Hill sweep

Michigan county leaders pose with U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (third from left) and Gary Peters (second from right) after a special briefing arranged by MAC on Capitol Hill on March 7.

A contingent of Michigan county officials, led by MAC Board President Matthew Bierlein of Tuscola County and other board officers, made a round of visits to Michigan’s congressional delegation on Capitol Hill during the 2018 National Association of Counties Legislative Conference this week.

Taking a break from the policy and service workshops at the conference, Michigan leaders met with Reps. Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar, David Trott, Fred Upton and Tim Walberg on Tuesday, March 6. Michigan leaders also attended a special briefing from the state’s U.S. senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, to cap the day.

“These visits are a key part of the annual NACo event in D.C.,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of MAC. “The pace of public life is such that it’s rare when you can put so many county leaders in front of our federal representatives at one time. You have to grab those opportunities whenever you can.”

County leaders attending this year’s NACo event included:

Vaughn Begick (Bay County), Alisha Bell (Wayne County), Roger  Bergman (Ottawa County), Matthew Bierlein (Tuscola County), Ken Borton (Otsego County), David Bowman (Oakland County), Emily Brieve (Kent County), Carol Crawford (Grand Traverse County), Greg DeJong (Ottawa County), Donald Disselkoen (Ottawa County),  Jerry Doucette (Alger County), Veronica Klinefelt (Macomb County), Philip Kuyers (Ottawa County), Sarah Lightner (Jackson County), Daniel Mahoney (Jackson County), Christian Marcus (Antrim County), Stephanie Moore (Kalamazoo County), Michael Overton (Jackson County), Stan Ponstein (Kent County), Julie Rogers (Kalamazoo County), Richard Schmidt (Manistee County), Michael Seals (Kalamazoo County), Eugene Smith (Iron County), Joe Stevens (Dickinson County), Jim Storey (Allegan County), Mary   Swanson (Kent County), Jim Talen (Kent County),  Shelley Taub (Oakland County), Al Vanderberg (Ottawa County) Matthew Van Zetten (Kent County) Gary Woronchak (Wayne County) and Helaine Zack (Oakland County).

Legislature falls short on giving counties the tools they need to address retirement funding, MAC says

Steve Currie

Steve Currie

The Legislature’s decision to focus bills to adopt the recommendations of Gov. Rick Snyder’s task force on the pension-OPEB crisis leaves Michigan’s 83 counties without adequate new tools they need to address funding of retirement benefits, MAC’s executive director said.

Stephan W. Currie, who has served on both of Snyder’s task forces on this issue, said in response to the Legislature’s actions early Thursday morning, “We still need a variety of new tools to address commitments.”

“Adoption of the task force recommendations” Currie added, “is a bare minimum effort on collecting data on the problem. The other side of the coin here is, of course, revenue. Heading into Wednesday, we saw good prospects on separate, but related, legislation that would have created a secure fund for county revenue sharing and set a schedule for increased payments. Those advances now appear to be stuck.”

MAC supported the task force recommendations and, thus, supports the new versions of the bills, but Currie said that most of the work remains unfinished.

“This fell far short of the mark,” he said. “But we will continue to work with our members and the state to, first, collect the best data on the problem and convince state lawmakers of the need to equip county governments with the tools and revenue they need to handle these benefits.”

MAC praises new report on vital role of county services

michigan-county-mapA new report unveiled at MAC’s 2017 Legislative Conference could help the state take a broader view of the importance of proper funding for county services, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told MIRS News Service Thursday.

The study, Counties in Michigan: An Exercise in Regional Government, details the advantages that counties already offer in the pursuit of greater collaboration on public services and improved efficiency.

“(CRC) is not advocating a one-size-fits-all solution to  regional  government  in  Michigan,  but  rather  a  move to thinking of local government more in terms
of the region and what county government can do in a more effective and economical manner than a city, village, or township can do,” the report concludes.

Speaking at the MAC conference Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan should look to invest more in local services. MAC will be urging the governor and his administration to work with the Legislature to translate that concept into tangible changes in state budgets and regulations as the legislative session continues in 2017.

Shiawassee County rejoins MAC

shiawasseeThanks to a vote by the Shiawassee Board of Commissioners this month, MAC will enter 2017 with all 83 counties as dues-paying members.

“This is excellent news for MAC and, more importantly, our members,” said incoming Executive Director Steve Currie. “Our collective voice will now be stronger at the State Capitol in a year when we are seeking major reforms to aid county governments on financing public services.”

Shiawassee County Board Chairman Hartmann Aue cited MAC’s services and the county’s financial improvements for the move.

“In two years, Shiawassee County has completely changed our financial condition. We have generated a record surplus of nearly $800,000, paid down long term debts by more than $850,000 and have grown our ‘rainy day fund’ from $23,000 to more than $400,000. … I felt now was the time to rejoin MAC and provide the Board of Commissioners additional resources to govern successfully,” he said. “The services and trainings provided by MAC will only help Shiawassee County continue the positive momentum from the foundation set in place by the 2015-2016 Board.”

With its membership, Shiawassee now can leverage the advocacy, educational and networking opportunities MAC offers all its members, plus special service arrangements with such business partners as Nationwide Retirement Solutions, Allstate Benefits and Lincoln Financial.

Republicans build on big majority in county commissioner seats

mac-michigan-map-partisan-board-stats-11-10-2016Michigan Republicans expanded their already large margin in county commissioner seats in the Nov. 8 General Election, a MAC review of unofficial results shows.

The GOP now holds 432 seats, with one vacancy in Ontonagon County still to be filled. That’s up from 396 seats after the 2014 elections, for a net gain of at least 36 seats.

Democrats fell to 182 seats, while independents and third-party members hold 7 seats.

Republican majorities will sit on boards governing 63 of Michigan’s 83 counties; Democratic majorities will control 19 boards, while the Keweenaw board does not have a partisan majority.

Partisan control shifted in five counties due to election results:

  • Arenac (D to R)
  • Clare (R to D)
  • Isabella (D to R)
  • Keweenaw (D to no partisan majority)
  • Lake (D to R)

Of the 622 commissioners in 2017, 160 will be new to the office, not counting the vacancy in Ontonagon. The turnover rate of 26 percent is consistent with historical results.

Republican-majority counties: Alcona, Allegan, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Clinton, Crawford, Dickinson, Eaton, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Houghton, Huron, Ionia, Iosco, Isabella, Jackson, Kalkaska, Kent, Lake, Lapeer, Leelanau, Lenawee, Livingston, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Midland, Missaukee, Monroe, Montcalm, Montmorency, Newaygo, Oakland, Oceana, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Ottawa, Presque Isle, Roscommon, St. Clair, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Schoolcraft, Shiawassee, Tuscola, Van Buren, Wexford

Democratic-majority counties:  Gogebic, Ontonagon, Iron, Baraga, Marquette, Alger, Delta, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Ingham, Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb, Genesee, Saginaw, Bay, Gladwin, Clare, Ogemaw

Click here to see a larger version of the partisan-control map.

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.”

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.