MAC’s Currie named Strategic Association Leader by Michigan Society of Association Executives

Stephan Currie addresses the audience at the 16th MSAE Diamond Awards after accepting his honor as Strategic Association Leader for 2017.

Stephan Currie addresses the audience at the 16th MSAE Diamond Awards after accepting his honor as Strategic Association Leader for 2017.

Stephan W. Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, was honored Sept. 14 as the 2017 Strategic Association Leader by the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE).

Currie received the honor during the 16th annual MSAE Diamond Awards at The Henry Hotel in Dearborn. The award is presented to an association leader who, in MSAE’s words, “has demonstrated the ability and commitment to going beyond the expected standards of service and professionalism. The award reflects outstanding leadership and achievement in association management. Strategic association leaders serve MSAE and encourage their staff to participate in the association community; contribute to other voluntary membership organizations; and participate in various civic and community affairs.”

In a letter in support of Currie’s nomination, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans noted, “Mr. Currie and his team at the Michigan Association of Counties provided invaluable expertise and support as we sought to reinvent our purchasing process. Our new state-of-the-art system is expected to save our taxpayers millions of dollars while making it easier for qualified contractors to do business with Wayne County.”

In his acceptance speech, Currie said, “I was shocked, and humbled, to learn I had been nominated and then honored. This award reflects the hard work and commitment of the entire MAC team.

Currie became MAC’s fourth executive director since 1968 on Jan. 1, 2017.

MAC urges commissioners to call senators on property tax amendment

veteran image 10-20-14MAC urges county commissioners to call their state senators this morning (Sept. 19) and ask them to support the Casperson amendment to Senate Bill 45, a veterans property tax exemption. This amendment would not diminish existing or future property tax exemption benefits to disabled veterans, but would require the state to reimburse local units for the lost revenue associated with the property tax exemption.
In this way, the state has ownership in the tax exemption policy they enact.
For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth, bosworth@micounties.org or 517-372-5374.

General Fund trends have state in jam, Bosworth tells Bloomberg News

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs

State leaders have put Michigan, county leaders and themselves in a difficult position after years of failing to invest resources in local services, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told a Bloomberg News reporter this week.

In a story detailing the coming crunch on Michigan’s General Fund, Bosworth said, “You can cut services, you can say you’re no longer going to have a court system, foster care. But there’s really not a lot more you can do without more revenue.’’

Bosworth was speaking in the context of the limitations in Proposal A and Headlee that have made it virtually impossible for counties to recover the property revenue crash of the Great Recession, even as Michigan property values are recovering.

“We’re running at 60 percent of what tax revenues were 10 years ago,’’ Bosworth said, referring to the inflation-adjusted revenue figures for a typical county in Michigan.

To read the entire piece, reproduced with permission from Daily Tax Report (Copyright 2017 by The Bureau of National Affairs, http://www.bna.com), click here.

Pension-OPEB report shows need for state to adopt tailored, long-term approach to complex liability issues

Steve Currie

Steve Currie

Michigan needs to tailor long-term solutions to the specific circumstances of local governments struggling to cover pension and OPEB liabilities said the Michigan Association of Counties in response to the new report of a gubernatorial task force.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s Task Force on Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government met over the winter and spring to study unfunded liabilities exceeding $14 billion for pensions, health and other benefits for employees. The group’s report properly notes that:

  • “As local units across the state are unique and at different stages in dealing with this problem, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution – we must be flexible in our approach.” (page 3)
  • “Attention should focus on the local units experiencing the greatest fiscal stress as it relates to pension and OPEB liabilities.” (page 3)

“It’s important for legislators and citizens to understand that there’s no overnight fix to this issue,” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director.

Currie, who served on the 23-member panel, added, “A ‘one-size-for-all’ approach will not work for everyone, which the report rightly highlights. For example, most of our 83 county members either are in solid shape in setting aside money for these commitments or did not extend them in the first place. We need to start with a system that identifies the governments struggling with legacy costs, as is urged in the report.

“MAC is appreciative of the opportunity to participate with a diverse group of stakeholders and looks forward to working with the governor, legislators and others in the ongoing pursuit of stable funding.”

The full report and additional details are available at the governor’s website.

For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.

Otsego’s Borton returns from County Leadership Institute with focus on building consensus

Otsego County's Ken Borton is congratulated on his completion of the County Leadership Institute by NACo Executive Director Matt Chase and NACo Director of Strategic Relations Linda Langston. (NACo photo)

Otsego County’s Ken Borton is congratulated on his completion of the County Leadership Institute by NACo Executive Director Matt Chase and NACo Director of Strategic Relations Linda Langston. (NACo photo)

Otsego County Board Chair Ken Borton, also MAC’s second vice president, “graduated” in June from the County Leadership Institute (CLI) put on by the National Association of Counties (NACo). With the “rigorous four-day program offered in partnership with Cambridge Leadership Associates, NACo aims to enhance the capability of county officials to identify and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges facing county government. Attendees learn how to effectively address the demands of personal leadership in a new era of government. This era is characterized as a “permanent crisis” by CLI Program Developer and Cambridge Leadership co-founder Marty Linsky.”

MAC News asked Borton what lessons he drew from the training:

  1.  I learned how to better run a meeting including how to allow constructive engagement of people with opposing viewpoints. This will make for better input on issues prior to making any decisions. They used a great analogy: If you want to make great stew, you can’t just put in one or two of your favorite ingredients and expect it to turn out right. You have to put in a lot of ingredients, including some you may not think you like. Then you have to apply just the right amount of heat in order to make it meld together. On the other hand, if you have all the correct ingredients and apply too much heat, you will just boil over. If you apply too little heat, you will wind up with mush. For me, I found out that I always try to turn down the heat at meetings by using humor. I have a feeling with a little more heat my meetings will be much more productive.
  1. One of the great things about the program was that I made connections with commissioners from all of the country. There are many issues faced by all counties, regardless of which state they are in. It’s an invaluable resource to have these contacts to learn from.
  1. The training left me highly motivated to work with my fellow community leaders to help create a community-wide vision for social and economic growth.

For more information on CLI, visit NACo’s website.

MAC joins call for state attention to infrastructure crisis

roads image mliveMAC joined with a broad coalition of government and business groups at a May 30 event to highlight the ongoing, and worsening, crisis in Michigan’s physical infrastructure.

“Sound infrastructure is vital for economic growth. The drivers of our economy: manufacturing, agriculture and tourism depend on it,” said Andy Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Infrastructure must be a data-driven discussion, and the data is clear. The Legislature needs to keep the funding promises made in 2015 for roads and begin laying the foundation to address other vital infrastructure systems.”

MAC’s Transportation Platform calls for “the logical development, interconnection and sustained maintenance of all transportation designs and infrastructures within our state.”

For more on the issue, see the press release, or visit fixmistate.org.

First 4 standards for indigent defense approved; 180-day compliance clock started

indigent defenseThe first standards from the state’s Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) were approved late Monday (May 22) by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This decision now begins a 180-day clock for counties to submit their compliance plans for these four particular standards:

  • Education and training
  • Initial client interviews
  • Experts and investigators
  • Presence of counsel in front of a judge

Remember, once a compliance plan has been approved, counties still do not have to comply with the standards (if they are not already complying) until state funding for those measures has been appropriated. After receipt of the funds, counties will have another 180 days to implement the changes.

Additional information can be found on the MIDC website. The complete text of the order is here.

If you have questions, contact Elizabeth Gorz, gorz@micounties.org or 248-330-2288.

MAC praises Rep. VerHeulen for leading effort to resolve court funding questions

federal courtoom detroitLegislation filed today by Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Kent) that would keep funding for local trial courts stable and create a special commission to study best practices is an important move toward permanent reform, the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) said today.

MAC, representing Michigan’s 83 counties, which have responsibility for local trial courts, has been working diligently with legislators and other stakeholders on an improved court funding model since a 2014 Michigan Supreme Court ruling through the traditional funding system into disarray.

In People v. Cunningham in June 2014, the court ruled a lack of statutory authority invalidated the use of fees routinely imposed on convicted defendants. That meant local courts were looking at operating fund losses in the tens of millions of dollars. MAC helped lead a coalition of stakeholders to draft legislation to restore the fee authority, which became law in fall 2014. That fee authority, though, expires this October.

Rep. VerHeulen’s bills, House Bills 4612 and 4613, would again extend the fee authority, this time to Oct. 17, 2020, plus direct the formation of a commission to analyze court funding models and make a recommendation to the Legislature for action. The bills were assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is a difficult issue, so we are thankful Rep. VerHeulen is, first, ensuring stable operations for our trial courts and, second, putting together a process to enact a better, permanent funding system,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “Since the proverbial clock is ticking, it’s vital for the Legislature to review and advance this legislation to Gov. Snyder’s desk by September.”

For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.

April calls tackle mentally ill in county jails

stepping-up-logoThe National Association of Counties (NACo) urges counties to participate in the following call:

“Join the Stepping Up partners for the second Stepping Up Network Call: a deeper dive into the question “Do we conduct timely screening and assessments?” which is featured in the publication Reducing the Number of People with Mental Illness in Jails: Six Questions County Leaders Need to Ask. On this call, a representative from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will discuss specific mental health screening tools and protocols used in regional and local jails. In addition, representatives from Champaign County, IL, and Douglas County, KS, will be available to discuss their counties’ screening and assessment processes and respond to participants’ questions. Prior to the call, participants should join or review the “Conducting Timely Mental Health Screening and Assessment in Jails” webinar, which will occur on Thursday, April 6 at 2pm ET. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Stepping Up Toolkit

Click here to register for the call.

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.