Archive for June, 2021

ARP revenue calculator released; consulting contracts now available

Counties now can download their own copies of a calculator sheet on revenue losses for purposes of the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the National Association of Counties announced this week.

Developed by the Government Finance Officers Association, the calculator can be found here.

MAC also is pleased to announce that four consulting firms, operating under pre-vetted contracts that comply with all requirements of Michigan law, are now available to assist counties that need advice and guidance on spending and tracking ARP payments.

“The vendors chosen through this process are prequalified to assist counties in managing the COVID-19 relief funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” explains MAC’s subsidiary, CoProPlus, which worked with Livingston County on the RFP to identify consulting firms. “The contracts offer a means for counties to receive financial accounting, oversight monitoring, auditing and/or reporting services as required for each individual project.”

During a call this week, NACo staffers reviewed the latest information from the U.S. Treasury on rules, deadlines and details about the use of federal relief funds. They encouraged counties to regularly visit the NACo analysis page on revenue issues.

In other ARP news, local governments can now visit the Michigan Department of Treasury American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) webpage to view information and updates regarding the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

As always, be sure to check MAC’s COVID Resources Page for the latest developments in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

Bill to enforce rules on unfunded mandates gets hearing     

A bill that would impose a legislative procedure to prohibit the enactment of unfunded mandates, a long-held goal of MAC, received a hearing this week in the Senate Committee on Oversight.

Senate Bill 449, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), reinforces the provisions of the Headlee Amendment in the Michigan Constitution by specifying the Legislature shall appropriate sufficient money to pay local units of government for each state requirement imposed upon them pursuant to Section 29 of Article 9 of the Constitution (Headlee). The bill further provides that no unit of local government shall be required to provide a new activity or service or an increase in an existing activity or service unless:

  • There is a fiscal note prepared and published; and
  • The State appropriates sufficient funding based on the fiscal note.

The fiscal note process would require the fiscal agencies to review bills to determine if they contain a change in activity or service required of a local unit of government before a bill is scheduled on third reading in the chamber where it was introduced. Further, such bills would then be reviewed by the fiscal agencies to develop a fiscal note or written estimate of the increased necessary costs. The fiscal agencies would report their findings to the Legislature before the bill could be taken up on third reading.

This may slow down the legislative process, but it would put the Legislature on notice that the bills will impact the finances of local governments. The bill further specifies the state shall not impose a penalty on or withhold funds to a local unit of government that does not comply with a mandate if the fiscal note process has not been followed or if the state has prepared a fiscal note but a taxpayer (including a local unit of government) has filed a lawsuit asserting that the law creates a mandate and the court has not issued an order within six months or has decided in favor of the taxpayer.

The committee only took testimony, and no action is anticipated until fall.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Public notices legislation remains problem for counties

A two-bill package “modernizing” public notice postings passed out of the Senate Committee on Local Government this week. Senate Bill 258, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), and SB 259, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), would modify the definition of a newspaper in the law to mean a newspaper in an adjoining jurisdiction, if one is not available in the county posting a notice.

The legislation also would require the posting of the notice on a website hosted by the newspaper.

MAC offered several amendments that were rejected to advance the intent of the legislation, which is to limit the cost of public notices to a government rate; to allow for partial posting of information with a link to more information; and to allow the posting online to count toward the deadline needed to meet notice posting timelines.

MAC will continue to back changes to make this legislation beneficial to counties but does not support the current versions.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at Bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MAC supports bill on transfer of murderers

New legislation clarifying the custody of those convicted of murder in Michigan received the support of MAC this week.

House Bill 4719, by Rep. Robert Bezotte (R-Livingston), would require that a person convicted of first-degree murder be immediately committed to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) in a state correctional facility, pending sentencing. The county sheriff will have to transport the convicted person for final sentencing from the facility to the county and back again.

Counties would realize a savings for no longer having to detain these offenders while they await sentencing. More importantly, the process in the bill will help ensure safer environments in county jails and for sheriff staffers.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Calley introduces MAC-backed bill on 9-1-1 funding

Legislation to extend authorization for 9-1-1 operations and funding was introduced this week by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Ionia). Currently, the Emergency 9-1-1 Service Enabling Act expires at the end of this year. House Bill 5026 would extend the authorization until Dec. 31, 2027, plus ensure fee revenues are on target with projected costs of statewide implementation of Next General 911 (NG911). NG911 is an IP-based fiber network that will completely replace the copper-based system.

In order to ensure revenue meets the costs of the network, surcharges are levied on pre- and post-paid phones. Prepaid revenue, however, is 25 percent less than was projected. The bills proposed to increase the pre-paid surcharge from 5 percent to 6.5 percent. Post-paid fees are proposed to increase from 5 cents to 7 cents. Additionally, there is a provision to trigger a fee rollback process if more revenue is generated than needed.

Lastly, the bill would require a review of prepaid providers to ensure proper collection and remittance is occurring.

The bill is before the House Committee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Wexford). MAC supports HB 5026.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Register now for June 21 live session of Podcast 83

MAC’s Podcast 83 team resumes its weekly live sessions on state and federal policy issues at 3 p.m. on Monday, June 21.

Among issues to be addressed are American Rescue Plan spending and what’s happening on the state budget.

To register for the session, click here.

Links to past episodes can be found on the podcast webpage, while every 2021 video episode is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

 

Keep up the emails, resolutions on 4-year terms

After gaining broad support and bipartisan passage in the Michigan Senate, legislation to adopt four-year terms for county commissioners awaits initial action in the House of Representatives.

Senate Bills 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland), would bring four-year terms for county commissioners to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle.

The bills are in the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance.

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Friday morning, 81 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, 28 counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Huron, Ionia, Isabella, Lenawee, Macomb, Manistee, Marquette, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Oscoda, Sanilac, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wexford.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MAC voices concern on workers’ comp bill

An amended version of House Bill 4822, by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Genesee), passed the House Government Operations Committee on a party-line vote. The bill provides that a first response employee’s illness resulting from contracting COVID-19 is rebuttably presumed to be a personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment under certain circumstances.

The Worker’s Disability Compensation Act provides compensation to employees who are injured on the job and provides that those benefits are the employee’s sole remedy for the injury. MAC joined partners including the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Insurance Alliance of Michigan in voicing concern for the precedent this type of legislation sets for workers’ compensation benefits.

While appreciative of the many changes made by the bill sponsor since the introduced version, collectively: “We believe that workers’ compensation benefit determinations – regardless of occupation – should be made on a case-by-case basis, and not by state or federal mandates.”

Democrats on the committee voted no after failed attempts to remove language that says COVID-19 shall be considered an “ordinary disease of life.”

The bill now awaits further action by the full House.

 

COVID delays NACo flag retirement boxes

A reported COVID outbreak with the partnering vendor has delayed shipment of U.S. flag retirement boxes to Michigan counties that requested them via a new NACo program.

MAC and NACo announced the program at the 2021 Legislative Conference, with the goal of delivering the boxes by early June. Unfortunately, NACo advised this week, the vendor that delivers the boxes had staffing issues, which has caused significant delays.

The box shipments are now set to begin next week.

NACo and MAC apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this has caused counties that are eager to begin their participation this new service.

 

Join thousands of county leaders who have energized their leadership skills

The NACo High Performance Leadership Academy is now being used for succession planning and workforce training by nearly two-thirds of all counties in the U.S. because of its success. The program and its associated results have been described as “Unprecedented!” by county officials, business executives and academics. This is not too surprising based on feedback like this:

“This leadership program is a game changer! It creates in you an appetite to be the best leader you can be. And it leaves you feeling empowered with tools you can implement immediately.” – HR Supervisor

“This program provided me with new tools to enable, motivate and retain employees.  It has helped me better serve my staff and the public.” – Commissioner

Nearly 2,000 county leaders have experienced this program just this year. The next start happens in August. Take advantage of available NACo scholarships and join your peers, colleagues and county leaders in the next NACo High Performance Leadership Academy.

Enroll at www.naco.org/skills.

 

2020 roads report shows 42% in ‘poor’ condition

The trends on Michigan’s roadways continue to be poor, said the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) recently in publishing its 2020 Roads and Bridges Annual Report.

“The 2020 report reveals the on-going challenges of maintaining Michigan’s federal aid eligible roads as the deterioration cycle of roads unfortunately shows a continued trend of Poor condition,” stated TAMC Chair Joanna I. Johnson.

The report found Michigan’s Federal Aid eligible paved roads were:

  • 22% Good
  • 36% Fair
  • 42% Poor

In 2019, the breakdown was 21% Good, 40% Fair and 39% in Poor condition.

Michigan’s bridges declined in condition in 2020 with:

  • 36% Good
  • 53% Fair
  • 7% Poor
  • 4% “Severe”

In 2019, the distribution was 38% Good, 51% Fair, 7% Poor and 4% Severe. The Severe category was added into TAMC reporting in 2019 as a measure of criticality and a warning that these structures are in jeopardy for closure due to structural concerns that could pose a threat to traffic. “We continue to lose progress with these valuable assets, especially as we look at neighboring Great Lake States”, stated Chair Johnson.

Christopher Bolt, an assistant county administrator in Jackson County, is the MAC representative on the council.

 

Staff picks

MAC continues to gather answers, devise strategies on ARP spending

With the release of a new U.S. Treasury FAQ sheet and aggregated language on interim spending rules, Michigan counties now have substantial guidance on how they can use the $1.9 billion in direct investments via the American Rescue Plan.

Meanwhile, MAC is working with state and local officials on a strategy to help magnify the impact of the billions of dollars coming to all levels of government in our state.

Among key elements in the new Treasury FAQ are: 

  • Costs of consultants: Recovery Funds CAN be used to cover the costs of consultants to assist with managing and administering the funds.
  • Public jobs programs: Recovery Funds CAN be used to establish public jobs programs (I.e. subsidized employment, combined education an on-the-job training, job training to accelerate rehiring or address negative economic impacts, childcare assistance or assistance with transportation to and from a jobsite or interview).
  • Revenue loss and audited financial data: If a county does not have audited data readily available when calculating its revenue loss, it is not required to obtain audited data. 
  • Revenue loss and Census data: When calculating general revenue, counties should use their own data sources and do NOT need to rely on published revenue data from the Census Bureau.
  • Revenue loss on cash basis/accrual basis: When determining revenue loss, counties may provide data on a cash, accrual or modified accrual basis, so long as the county is consistent in their choice of methodology throughout the covered period and until reporting is no longer required.

For more context and guidance, counties also can consult documents created by MAC and by NACo that highlight critical issues and concepts.

And MAC continues to work on a plan to earmark close to $4 billion in state ARP funds as matching funds to enhance local efforts. For this plan, the Whitmer administration and legislative leaders have asked for ideas that:

  • will be transformational in nature;
  • do not create new programs; and
  • strategically invest the one-time dollars in areas of greatest need for improvement.

MAC has been having multiple conversations each week with the administration, legislative leaders, business and community leaders and other stakeholders on this idea. Our hope is to create a groundswell of support that bridges the political gap in Lansing and truly provides the resources and value needed for strategic investments in Michigan. As part of that effort, MAC has created a resolution template that counties can use to express support for the matching funds concept.

For questions on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Registration is now open for MAC’s 2021 Regional Summits

Commissioners and other county leaders can learn tips on how to utilize American Rescue Plans and be briefed on the affordable housing crisis and its effects on counties during MAC’s 2021 Regional Summits in late July.

In light of COVID-19, some changes have been made to the event. All food and beverage will be boxed/packaged, for example. And networking time will be minimized.

As usual, however, MAC will offer the summits at four sites across Michigan:

  • July 19 – Grand Rapids
  • July 22 – Frankenmuth
  • July 26 – Escanaba
  • July 29 – Gaylord

Start your registration process by visiting the events page at our website.

“Our summits are designed to provide the most important, most practical information for commissioners and other county leaders in the shortest possible amount of time,” explained Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “This design is in deference to commissioners’ busy schedule and also, this year, to the realities imposed by COVID-19.”

Topics to be covered at all four sessions include:

  • Using American Rescue Plan funds effectively
  • Worker safety at the office and at home during COVID
  • Why your county should be thinking about affordable housing
  • The benefits of partnering with Michigan’s community foundations

The summit will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; a light breakfast and lunch will be included for the $35 fee.

 

MAC seeks volunteers for new Juvenile Justice Task Force

MAC will be nominating two county commissioners to a new Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week.

In announcing the new panel, Whitmer’s office explained the task force as “a partnership between the county and state leaders, as well as other leaders involved in the juvenile justice system. Additionally, the Task Force’s goal will be to develop an ambitious, innovative, and thorough analysis of Michigan’s juvenile justice system, complete with recommendations for changes in state law, policy and appropriations to improve youth outcomes.”

Alongside the governor for the announcement was Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist, who will chair the group. The task force will include members from the judicial and legislative branches. Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) also made comments during the announcement event.

Under the order, MAC will nominate two county commissioners, or their designee, to serve among appointees from other organizations representing countywide elected officials.   

If a county commissioner wishes to serve or has a designee that would be a good fit, please let MAC know immediately by emailing keit@micounties.org. The deadline to submit names is June 18.

In other juvenile justice news, bills to eliminate the ability for courts to access and collect costs associated with juvenile justice services were introduced:

  • House Bill 4987, by Rep Kara Hope (D-Ingham), would prohibit any court ordered fee or costs associated with consent calendar services. It removes the ability for any reasonable reimbursement, which under current law requires the court to take into account the juvenile’s income and resources, to be assessed for services under the consent calendar.
  • HB 4988, by Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Lenawee), would prohibit reimbursement for diversion services.
  • HB 4989, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), eliminates the assessment on a DNA sample for juveniles, in which revenues from assessments help support the jail reimbursement program fund and the court equity fund.
  • HB 4990, by Rep. Joe Tate (D-Wayne), prohibits any reimbursement by the “juvenile or those responsible for the juvenile’s support” for cost of care outside of the juvenile’s home.
  • HB 4991, by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Ionia), eliminates any late fees for juveniles.

MAC opposes all these bills in their current forms.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Housing package advances as MAC continues to express concern

Bipartisan legislation backed by the Michigan Housing Coalition passed unanimously, without MAC-requested changes, out of Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee this week, chaired by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Saginaw). The bill package now moves to the Senate floor.

Senate Bills 360361, by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Ottawa), allow employers to claim an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the total eligible contributions made during the tax year. Eligible contributions would include supporting a local impact housing trust fund or offering employees the option to participate in a qualified employer-assisted housing project that assists employees in securing affordable housing near the workplace.

SB 362, by Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Kent), would allow a qualified local governmental unit, by resolution of its legislative body, to establish one or more “attainable housing districts.” Within 28 days of receiving a copy of the resolution establishing a district, the county could reject the establishment of the district by written notification to the qualified local governmental unit.

SB 422, by Sen. Horn, creates the “Residential Facilities Exemption” and would allow a temporary tax abatement on qualified new housing development in districts established by local units of government. Within 28 days of receiving a copy of the resolution, a county could reject the establishment of the district.

MAC supports those four bills.

However, MAC did not support two other bills in the package and is working to ensure counties are included in the process of making property tax exemption decisions and community development decisions under SBs 364, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland),and 432, by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse). SB 364 would expand the area in which a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone could be developed. The committee passed version was amended to ensure the expanded NEZ area in a community is adjacent to existing development and a contains 5 or more existing residentials units per acre at the time of designation.

However, there is still no county oversight or involvement during the process under the bill at this point.

SB 432 allows local governments the ability to develop payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) policies and enter into PILOT agreements with developers who are building or rehabbing affordable housing units. Again, there is currently no county oversight or involvement during the process which would affect property taxes supporting important county programs for growing populations. .

Please refer to MAC’s May 21 update for further information and our written testimony to the chair, committee members and bill sponsors.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 will resume live episodes on June 21

MAC’s Podcast 83 team continued to field questions about American Rescue Plan funds and the state budget during their most recent live episode on June 7.

To see the video of the episode, click here.

The Podcast 83 team will take a break on Monday, June 14 and reconvene on the web on Monday, June 21 to discuss legislative action in Lansing and Washington, D.C.

Links to past episodes can be found on the podcast webpage, while every 2021 video episode is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

Keep up the emails, resolutions on 4-year terms

After gaining broad support and bipartisan passage in the Michigan Senate last week, legislation to adopt four-year terms for county commissioners awaits initial action in the House of Representatives.

Senate Bills 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland), would bring four-year terms for county commissioners to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle.

The bills will be referred to the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance on Tuesday.  

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Friday morning, 79 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, 27 counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Huron, Ionia, Isabella, Lenawee, Macomb, Manistee, Marquette, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Oscoda, Sanilac, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wexford.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Survey in field for indigent defense services

In accordance with the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) Act, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) must submit a report to the governor and Legislature that includes a recommendation regarding the appropriate level of local share.

The MIDC has asked Public Sector Consultants (PSC), a nonpartisan public policy firm, to conduct an evaluation to assist with the MIDC’s recommendation to the Legislature. PSC has developed a survey to gain broad feedback on topics raised during stakeholder interviews and preliminary data collection.

The MIDC is seeking feedback from stakeholders like counties to incorporate ideas and policy recommendations into the MIDC’s report. Please respond to this local share evaluation survey by June 15.

Questions related to the survey can be routed to Erin Lammers at elammers@publicsectorconsultants.com.

 

Next Michigan Treasury webinar set for June 17

The next webinar in a series co-sponsored by MAC on local finance issues will run from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 17.

The 13th event in the “Updates and Resources for Local Governments” webinar series, co-sponsored by MAC, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Department of Treasury, will cover:

  • Updates on the American Rescue Plan Act, including eligible uses and receipting
  • Strategically utilizing funds

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Treasury has developed a webpage with numbered letters, memorandums, webinars, and resources regarding COVID-19 updates for local governments and school districts. This webpage was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and is updated frequently with information and resources as they become available. 

 

Redistricting Commission updates meeting schedule

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) has made some schedule changes to its ongoing series of public hearings for its work to redraw political lines for the 2022 elections.

Please note, the Independent Redistricting Commission will draw district lines for state legislative and federal congressional districts. The lines for county commissioner districts are handled by county Apportionment Boards. For details on the apportionment process, click here or view a recording of a 2021 Legislative Conference workshop on the process.

DETROIT
Tuesday, June 15
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person) 

DETROIT
Thursday, June 17
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person)

PORT HURON
Tuesday, June 22
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person)

WARREN
Thursday, June 24
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person) 

MUSKEGON
Tuesday, June 29
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person)

GRAND RAPIDS
Thursday, July 1
Start Time:  5 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.)
Follow link to Sign-up or RSVP (virtual or in-person)

 

State using webinars to report on health technology

Over the previous 12 months, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and CedarBridge Group (CBG) have been conducting an environmental scan of the health information technology infrastructure within Michigan. The draft environmental scan findings and recommendations have been presented to MDHHS and the Health I.T. Commission. The time has come to present those findings and recommendations, and collect feedback from all of you, the health information technology stakeholders who have made it all possible.

To begin the effort, MDHHS and CBG will be hosting three webinars starting at 1 p.m. EST. Each will be 60 minutes and begin with a brief presentation of findings and recommendations lasting about 20 minutes. The remaining time will be used for discussion, real-time polling and electronic Q&A. Registration for the webinars is not mandatory and all stakeholders are welcome to attend.

To pre-register, go to http://bit.ly/roadmap_registration.

For questions, contact CedarBridge Group at miroadmap@cedarbridgegroup.com.

 

Huge Senate majority approves 4-year terms for commissioners

By a vote of 32-4, the Michigan Senate approved Senate Bills 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland), which would bring four-year terms for county commissioners to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle.

The roles of a county commissioner and the level of expertise necessary to oversee county government functions have increased substantially since the Legislature abolished the board of county supervisors in 1966 and created the county board of commissioners.

The bills will be referred to the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance on Tuesday.  

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Friday morning, 73 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Huron, Ionia, Isabella, Lenawee, Manistee, Marquette, Mecosta, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Oscoda, Sanilac, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wexford.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Senate panel votes to strip local control over sand, gravel operations

A package of bills aimed at usurping local control in favor of state siting and regulation of sand and gravel mining operations passed out of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week. MAC joined a large group of other local government stakeholders in opposing the legislation.

Although sand and gravel are essential aggregate materials for road repair and construction, and the cost to transport it long distances only adds to the expense of our crumbing roads, removing local control over the siting, operation and transport of the materials is detrimental to the residents of those host communities. Senate Bills 429-431 eliminate all existing local control and instead shift complete oversight to state officials who are far removed from the people and areas most affected by the operations.

Local involvement and oversight in gravel mining operations are critical to ensure issues are addressed to the benefit of all concerned. The current system works — allowing local officials and operators to address concerns or questions regularly as they arise.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

ARP funds arriving in county bank accounts; MAC working on collaboration plans

As more counties report the arrival of the first payment of American Rescue Plan (ARP) arriving in their accounts, MAC continues to advise all counties to hold off on committing the money for a bit longer if possible.

MAC has been working with the Michigan Municipal League to develop match program proposals for the state to consider. This comprehensive approach to amplify the impact of the ARP dollars will provide Michigan the opportunity for an unprecedented investment in water and broadband infrastructure, mental health services, capital improvements to facilities and jails, community and housing development and economic development. The proposal calls for $3.9 billion in state ARP funds as match money that the local governments can apply for to maximize their own ARP reserves.

MAC’s plan is to create a groundswell of support that bridges the political gap in Lansing and truly provides the resources and value needed for strategic investments in our state. 

MAC does not anticipate these decisions to be made at the state level for several weeks yet, but we are hopeful that counties across the state can hold off on ARP fund allocation until the details of the match programs can be worked out.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Revisions to veteran grants program advance

MAC-supported House Bill 4122, by Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland), continued its advance to enactment this week after final, and unanimous, passage by the Senate.

In large part, the legislation would amend the distribution and expenditure of grants from the County Veteran Service Fund within the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs budget. Specifically, the bill requires funds to be disbursed 60 days after a grant agreement is signed by the county and permits an exemption to the 20 hours per week requirement so that counties that may coordinate services are not excluded from the grant.

The bill would allow grant funds to retroactively be expended for direct financial assistance for an emergent relief program and provides a limited reduction in the county maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement to support hard-pressed counties for fiscal years 2021 and ‘22 (counties are not able to reduce the funding and supplant the reduction).

It maintains the $50,000 base amount of funding, plus a per capita amount based on a county’s veteran population. While the FY22 state budget is not final, MAC anticipates the $4 million appropriation, as recommended by the House and Senate, will be included in the final budget agreement.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 resumes live sessions on Monday, June 7

MAC’s Podcast 83 team resumes its weekly live sessions on state and federal policy issues at 3 p.m. on Monday, June 7.

Among issues to be addressed are American Rescue Plan spending, four-year terms for county commissioners and MAC’s work on the FY22 state budget.

To register for the session, click here.

Links to past episodes can be found on the podcast webpage, while every 2021 video episode is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

State courts office issues memo on operational issues

The State Court Administrative Office recently released a memo on “The Path Forward” for Michigan courts, outlining lessons learned from COVID-19 technology response that will be here to stay. The state court administrator highlighted four factors that the courts are relying on to use technology to create more accessible courts: the roadmap, technology, leadership and public support

In fact, many of the administrative orders the (Supreme Court) adopted in the last year remain in full effect and prescribe the path forward. For example:

  • Administrative Order No. 2020-19, which states that “[t]he technological tools courts used to ensure access during the closure should be maintained and indeed used more frequently to rebuild capacity,” and that “[c]ourts shall continue to expand the use of remote participation technology (video or telephone) as much as possible to reduce any backlog and to dispose of new cases efficiently and safely.”
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-1 directs courts in civil cases to “maximize the use of technology to enable and/or require parties to participate remotely.”
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-6 instructs that “all judges in Michigan are required to make a good faith effort to conduct proceedings remotely whenever possible.”

Additionally, the memo highlighted the latest Local Administrative Order: Plan to Return to Full Capacity – Phase Three Forward, which indicates “normal staffing will resume at worksites,” with additional guidance for more vulnerable employees.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Survey in field for indigent defense services

In accordance with the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) Act, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) must submit a report to the governor and Legislature that includes a recommendation regarding the appropriate level of local share.

The MIDC has asked Public Sector Consultants (PSC), a nonpartisan public policy firm, to conduct an evaluation to assist with the MIDC’s recommendation to the Legislature. PSC has developed a survey to gain broad feedback on topics raised during stakeholder interviews and preliminary data collection.

The MIDC is seeking feedback from stakeholders like counties to incorporate ideas and policy recommendations into the MIDC’s report. Please respond to this local share evaluation survey by June 15.

Questions related to the survey can be routed to Erin Lammers at elammers@publicsectorconsultants.com.

 

Treasury releases millage data on PPT reimbursements

The Local Community Stabilization Authority Act (LCSA Act), 2014 Public Act 86 requires the Michigan Department of Treasury to calculate and make available each municipality’s calculated millage rate eligible for personal property tax (PPT) reimbursement.

The 2012-2020 Millage Rate Comparison reports are now available on Treasury’s PPT reimbursement website: www.michigan.gov/pptreimbursement. These reports are intended to be used by municipalities to verify the eligible millage rates to be used in the 2021 PPT reimbursement calculations.

Municipalities should review the 2012-2020 Millage Rate Comparison reports for accuracy. If the millage rate data is correct, the municipality does not need to take any further action to notify Treasury.

If there are any errors in the millage rate data, the municipality is required by the LCSA Act to notify Treasury of the error no later than Aug. 1, 2021. The millage rate correction should be reported to Treasury on the Millage Rate Correction for the 2021 Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Calculations (Form 5613).

 

Redistricting Commission continues to offer presentations to local groups

The Michigan Citizen Redistricting Commission is still looking for opportunities and invitations from county governments, service clubs, annual meetings, ministerial alliances, fraternities, sororities, associations, etc., to explain the panel’s work in redrawing congressional and legislative district lines.

County leaders interested in such a presentation should contact Darci McConnell at McConnell Communications (darci@dmcconnell.com) for events in Southeast Michigan or Maureen Saxton of Van Dyke (maureen@vandykehorn.com) for events outside Southeast Michigan.

 

By Stephan Currie, Executive Director, Michigan Association of Counties

The citizens now serving in the Michigan Legislature did not create the fiscal crisis that now grips our 83 counties and other local governments.

The crisis is so large, so complex, it took decades to create — decades of poor choices, often made with good, or at least not malicious, intentions.

Nevertheless, time after time, legislators eased their own financial challenges by deepening the hole that our 83 county governments are trapped in. Revenue-sharing cuts. Unfunded mandates. Restrictions on raising and using revenue. The encroachments are many, the effects enormous.

Today, we are urging them to take the first step to better fiscal health: Stop making it worse.

Four years ago, state leaders briefly noticed the problem around them and convened a task force to study the pension and retiree health care pressures squeezing local governments. I was proud to sit on that panel, which produced a series of limited but practical recommendations to ease the strain.

All the Legislature managed to do, unfortunately, was to require locals to generate more reports (i.e., more work for locals) for the state to look at.

And if you look at those reports, you will see an unsurprising fact: Counties are still squeezed. In fiscal 2019, for example, county governments had at least $3.5 billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree pensions and health care coverage.

And what has the Legislature been doing in the meantime? Not helping.

In 2013, it enacted an exemption on property taxes to help Michigan veterans — a laudable goal. But they did it without compensating local governments. That exemption has carved $1.7 billion in taxable value off local accounts.

In the last three legislative sessions, 2015-2020, legislators filed no fewer than 140 separate bills involving exemptions to the property tax, the central revenue source for Michigan counties.

Many of these bills were motivated by noble purposes (job creation) or targeted for worthy groups (disabled veterans, charitable groups), but what they all lacked was any recognition of, or response for, the resulting cuts to local resources and local services.

And consider, a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that not only is Michigan “unique in the restrictiveness of the state’s property tax limits,” but “the property tax is particularly important for local governments’ fiscal health in Michigan because they have little access to other types of taxes to raise revenue.”

Our crisis only worsened in the aftermath of the Great Recession a decade ago. As the state’s economy and resources bounced back, Michigan’s local governments, trapped underneath two interlocking state restrictions on property taxes (Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment), saw their resources plunge and never really return.

It took 11 years for nominal property tax collections to recover to their 2008 level. Worse, adjusting for inflation, counties are now collecting almost $1 billion less than they did in 2008.

Then, of course, COVID hits.

Across the state, county leaders worked to ensure the continued delivery of public services while doing their best to protect the health of residents and county employees. The strains have been severe, but counties have met the challenge – so far.

But we’ve all seen what COVID has done to local economies, with empty storefronts and unutilized office buildings a common sight. Those images will, at some point, translate into lower property values and lower property taxes (used to pay for those local services and cover those local liabilities to public servants).

Despite this, some legislators are backing more ideas that will create more problems.

They are pointing to the historic investment to counties in the American Rescue Plan as proof the state can further reduce its commitment — even though the ARP funds cannot, by law, be used to address pension or retiree health care needs.

And they continue to file and tout property tax exemptions (10 bills so far in 2021).

With each of these special breaks, more of the burden for public services shifts to everyone else, the small businesses and households that constitute the majority of the state’s taxpayers.

So, until the Legislature can engage in a good-faith discussion on how to address the local government fiscal crisis, we have one simple request to lawmakers: Stop making it worse.

NOTE: This commentary originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business on May 23.

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