Counties praise revenue sharing boost in governor’s FY20 budget; call roads plan a ‘bold start’ to debate

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget carries many positive notes for county government in Michigan, said the executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties.

“Obviously, it’s great to see the 3 percent increase in county revenue sharing funds, as revenue sharing is the key promise from the state to counties to help with delivery of vital local services,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

Whitmer’s budget, released today during a presentation in downtown Lansing, would move county revenue sharing totals to just over $228 million, up from the $221.4 million in the fiscal 2019 budget.

Another positive note was the governor’s call for a significant investment in dealing with the PFAS contamination in Michigan waters.

On infrastructure, Currie said counties see the governor’s proposal to raise the gasoline tax by 45 cents a “bold proposal that gets the conversation started.”

The governor calls for raising $2.5 billion for roads by increasing the gas tax 45 cents by Oct. 1, 2020. Money generated would go to a new “Fixing Michigan Roads Fund” for the most “highly traveled and commercially important roads” at the state and local levels, reports the Governor’s Office.

Candidates announce for MAC Board elections at 2019 Legislative Conference

Two seats on the 16-member MAC Board of Directors will be filled by the membership during special elections at the 2019 Legislative Conference in Lansing.

The Region IV Caucus will meet on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 26 to fill a vacancy that runs through August 2019. All six MAC Caucuses meanwhile will meet on Tuesday, March 26 to fill an At-large vacancy that runs through August 2019. Details on voting procedures can be viewed here.

See MAC Region Map.

The following candidates are announced:

At-large

Scott Noesen, Midland County
I am running for the Michigan Association of Counties At-large Board seat at the 2019 MAC Legislative Conference.

After a 33-year career with Dow Chemical Company, I retired in 2008 and started up my own consulting firm to provide guidance to institutions on how to integrate the concepts of Sustainability into their business strategies. In 2015, I was elected as a county commissioner for Midland and am now in my third term as a commissioner. I currently chair the Midland County Finance Committee and serve on the Administration and Operations Committee. In 2017, I joined many of my fellow Michigan commissioners in Washington, D.C., for a first-ever meeting with the president’s staff to discuss issues of importance between our national government and its impact on county government

As of January 2019, I also chair the Northern Michigan Counties Association (NMCA), which gathers members from the northern most counties of Michigan and provides guidance to these counties on issues of common interest.

Over the last several years, I have served on both the Finance and Environmental Committees of MAC. Most recently, I was named by Gov. Rick Snyder as the MAC representative on the newly created Water Asset Management Council, a broad-based stakeholder group charged with providing guidance on the critical infrastructure needs related to water, including fresh water delivery, storm and sewer water

I am keenly interested in the relationship between state and local entities and am concerned about the long-term viability of county budgets in an environment of continued pressure from the state with new initiatives mandated by the state with little or no backup funding. As a board director, I will work hard to preserve the rights of the counties and make sure our voice is heard in Lansing and Washington.

Kyle Harris, Saginaw County
I was first elected to the Saginaw County Board in 2016, where I’ve been serving on the County Services Committee and Labor Relations Committee. Since first being elected, I wanted to be involved with MAC and have been serving on the following committees: Agriculture and Tourism; Transportation; and General Government, Chair. Outside of MAC, I have spent nine years working in the Michigan Legislature, assisting with various political campaigns and working with the family business that installs and refinishes hardwood floors.

I am interested in serving on the Board to advance my commitment and contributions to MAC and, by extension, the citizens of Michigan. To name a few specific things I would like to work on: increasing transportation funding to local roads by working with MAC staff and the Legislature to reduce the amount of money being siphoned off from PA 51 dollars; “pushing back” against the Legislature in their relentless effort to place more mandates on counties without updating the long-outdated funding formula for constitutional revenue sharing; and “best practices” from around the country to help Michigan counties succeed in getting ahead financially and providing top-notch services to their citizens.

Monica Sparks, Kent County
Hello fellow commissioners! My name is Monica Sparks. As a Kent County commissioner, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. May I earn your vote to serve as your advocate?

EFFORT: I will show up and invest my time in building alliances with local, state and federal officials to benefit all MAC. members regarding key issues that affect our counties.
EDUCATE: The full potential of MAC services is not being accessed by our county officials. I will learn to be a voice to share MAC services, to grow our membership and so current commissioners can utilize the educational and advocacy components needed to fully serve constituents.
EMPOWER: I will advocate for and support MAC members in their role. Our commissioners, county administration and staff work hard. Don’t they deserve to be confident and strong as they deliver much needed services in their county?

WHAT DO I VALUE AND SUPPORT?

  • Economic Mobility
  • Mental Health Services
  • Our Environment
  • Veteran and Senior Services
  • Treatment Courts
  • Farm Bill and Agriculture
  • Infrastructure Renewal
  • Affordable Housing
  • Those with Special Needs
  • Parks, Recreation and Tourism

I AM AN EXPERIENCED SERVANT LEADER:

  • Kent County Commissioner
  • Finance & Physical Resources Committee (Kent County Board of Commissioners)
  • Former, Planning Commissioner, City of Kentwood
  • Former Zoning Board of Appeals Commissioner, City of Kentwood
  • School Board President, Vista Academy
  • State of Michigan Licensed Real Estate Broker 20+ years
  • Certified SCORE Business Mentor and Counselor
  • Named ‘Diversity Business Leader of the Year’ Corp Magazine 2009
  • Selected ‘One of the 50 Most Influential Women,’ Grand Rapids Business Journal 2018
  • Wyoming Kentwood Chamber of Commerce
  • West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Advocates for Seniors Issues, Diversity and Legislative Committee
  • American Legion Auxiliary, D.W. Cassard Post 208

I recently joined MAC committees for Agriculture and Tourism; General Government; and Environmental, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs.

I am accessible, inclusive of all and would like to answer any questions you may have.
PHONE: 616.813.9397
EMAIL: MonicaSparks4KCC@Gmail.com
FACEBOOK: Monica Sparks Kent County Commissioner
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Region 4 (Thumb and Mid-Michigan)

Dwight Washington, Clinton County
After graduating from Harvard (M.Ed) and Michigan State University (BA & Ph.D), I initially pursued a career in health and human services, then made a mid-professional career change to environmental services. This background has been helpful during my two terms as a county commissioner, while specifically serving as a member of the Clinton County Public Health and Parks and Recreation committees.

I am an active member of MAC’s Health and Human Services and the Environmental committees. I am also a member of the National Association of Counties’ Environment, Energy & Land Use (EELU) Steering Committee, and will be part of the Inaugural Meeting for the Parks, Open Space and Trails Subcommittee. I am passionate about protecting Great Lakes water for present and future generations. I also advocate to state and federal leaders about the need for high quality water and water security, which includes; septic systems, storm water, invasive species, toxic plumes, water table levels, beach closures, potable water, lead pipes, river boating, and fishing holes. I have been nominated to the EPA Great Lakes Advisory Board and am optimistically waiting the completion of the review. Further, I have a keen interest in helping to hone a sustainable MAC position on present and future water challenges and new policies (including, but not limited to, “the Waters of the US” and the “Great Lakes Compact).”

As a new commissioner, both the board chair and the county administrator highlighted to me that the weight of our decisions can have an impact 10 to 15 years into the future. This level of responsibility makes me proud of my county and helps me to recognize the importance of wise decision-making. I’d like to represent Region 4 with the MAC Board of Directors to maximize the community benefits of our counties’ park systems and public health departments to improve local quality of life. Thank you for your consideration and, hopefully, vote.

Donald Parker, Livingston County
My commitment to public service has shaped my entire professional career. Although I am incredibly fortunate for my over 14 years of service to my constituents as a Livingston County Commissioner, I now seek the opportunity to advance the interests of all counties in the State of Michigan as a member of the Michigan Association of Counties Board of Directors. I believe that my deep appreciation for the vital role of county government, coupled with my dedication and passion, make me a strong candidate for the Board.

Recently, I have been at the forefront of MAC’s efforts in the area of indigent defense, advocating on behalf of the counties before both the State Senate Appropriations Committee and the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), which will continue to be one of my highest priorities if elected to the Board. Also, as a Trustee on the Michigan Counties Worker’s Compensation Fund, I have demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively with other counties toward a common goal.

In addition, I am an attorney with over 14 years of experience in private practice. In 2007, the Michigan Attorney General appointed me as Livingston County Public Administrator, where I act on behalf of the State of Michigan in the administration of statutorily specified Estates and Decedent issues.

The opportunity to serve on the Michigan Association of Counties Board of Directors would be a tremendous honor. My experience in managing difficult assignments that involved molding consensus among multiple stakeholders in an organization of approximately 700 employees would provide real benefit to MAC and its mission. Thank you for your consideration.

Bosworth talks collaboration with city, township counterparts

MAC’s Deena Bosworth sat down with her advocacy counterparts from the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association recently to discuss “the power of numbers and how we’re able to get more things done when we work together” on MML’s podcast, “Michigan Politics, Huh?”

“We are kind of like the social safety net. What we do isn’t necessarily sexy but until you are in that system you don’t pay attention to it, but once you are there it’s very, very important,” Bosworth said to explain the myriad responsibilities of county government in Michigan in the 21st century.

MAC’s Bosworth briefs House committee on county challenges

Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth told the House Local Government Committee on Feb. 6 that financial trends continue to run against county governments that are trying to deliver vital local services.

During her presentation, Bosworth noted that counties have not recovered from the Great Recession of the last decade due to the constraints on growth in taxable values on property. Counties rely heavily on the property tax to fund local services, unlike the state government, which has a much more diversified revenue base, Bosworth noted.

Bosworth was among representatives of local government groups to testify before the House panel on the current situation in local services and what the state can and should do to aid their local counterparts.

See Bosworth’s testimony here, starting at the 55:30 mark.

For a complete look at MAC’s 2019 legislative priorities, click here.

MAC Legislative Conference will include elections

The upcoming MAC Legislative Conference in Lansing March 25-27 will include elections to fill two vacancies on the MAC Board of Directors, plus a membership vote on by-laws revisions put forward by the MAC Board.

At a special Business Meeting on Wednesday March 27, attending commissioners will vote on a new by-laws proposal developed after last year’s proposal was rejected at the Annual Conference. The proposed language will be posted to MAC’s website and mailed to all commissioners in early February for their review.

The day prior, on Tuesday, March 26, commissioners in counties in MAC’s Region 4 (Clinton, Genesee, Ingham, Jackson, Hillsdale, Huron, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Huron, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair and Tuscola) will vote to fill seat vacated by Matthew Bierlein of Tuscola.

And all commissioners attending will vote to fill a seat vacated by At-large Director Hugh Crawford of Oakland County.

Candidates for either the Region 4 or at-large seat are requested to send a letter of intent to MAC at melot@micounties.org, along with biographical and policy position information they wish to share with voters via MAC’s website. Deadline to ensure proper posting of this material is Feb. 25, 2019.

To vote in the elections, you must be a commissioner of a MAC member county who is registered for the conference.

For questions, contact Communications Director Derek Melot at melot@micounties.org or 517-372-5374.

2019 Membership Directory now on sale!

The 2019 MAC Membership Directory is now available for sale to the public!

The directory includes county-by-county listings for all county elected officials, plus key appointed officials, including administrators and purchasing officers.

Orders received prior to Jan. 30, 2019, can receive a copy for the price of $30, including shipping. After Jan. 30, the price moves to $40. Directories will become available in early February. There are limited quantities of the directory, so reserve your copy now!

For the fee, you receive a hard copy of the directory and a password to access the digital version of it, complete with a search function. Just think: Every county leader in Michigan listed in one single spot.

Begin your purchase today by accessing our order form.

MAC unveils new audio briefing: Podcast 83

Podcast 83 is a regular look at the news, stories and trends related to Michigan’s 83 counties from Keweenaw to Monroe, Chippewa to Berrien.

Hosted by MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie, the podcast features:

  • Regular reports from MAC staff on legislative activities
  • Updates and opportunities through MAC services
  • Newsmaker interviews
  • Happenings from across Michigan’s 83 counties

2018 Episodes

Episode 1 – released 8/24/18

Host: Stephan Currie

Guests: Deena Bosworth, MAC; Meghann Keit, MAC

Topics: Raise the Age legislation (1:00 mark); Indigent Defense (5:40); Personal Property Tax (7:05); Property Assessment Rules (14:42)

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).