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.

2014 MAC Priorities

The following list of our top five priorities for 2014 represents many of the policy and funding issues MAC is pursuing, but in no way is an exhaustive list of the issues we advocate for on behalf of counties.    

Full Funding for County Revenue Sharing:

  • Revenue sharing is a statutory obligation on behalf of the state, established in the 1960’s when counties gave up local taxing authority.
  • Counties made an agreement with the state to forego revenue sharing to help balance the state’s budget with the understanding that full funding would return to each county once their reserve accounts were exhausted.  This deal has only been honored once since 2005.
  • MAC will advocate for full county revenue sharing.

Prevent Future Unfunded Mandates:

  • In 2009, the Legislative Commission on Unfunded Mandates determined that more than $2.5 billion in services that can be measured, and billions more that cannot be measured, are provided by local units of government for free to the state of Michigan through unfunded mandates. 
  • There is little that can be done about past state violations of the Constitution, however legislation can and should be enacted that would require the state legislature to pay for any new mandates it imposes on counties before compliance would be required.  Bills are SB 495 – 498 and HB 5059 – 5060.
  • MAC is leading the charge to enact unfunded mandates legislation along with Senators Casperson, Robertson, Jansen and Meekhof.  Representatives Kowall and Walsh are heading up the package in the House.   

Reform Tax Capture Statutes:

  • Currently counties have limited say in the length and financial scope of tax capture districts. 
  • MAC is working with the House, Senate and the administration to ensure that counties have a voice in the economic development activities in their region by strengthening their voice in the tax capture and abatement process.
  • MAC’s goals are to allow for counties to negotiate how much revenue is captured, to prevent the capture of special millages and to have a seat on the board of these districts.

Closing the Big Box/Dark Store Tax Loophole

  • Many big box retailers have been appealing their property tax assessments to the Michigan Tax Tribunal by challenging the “true cash value” of their properties.
  • In the majority of the cases, the valuation methods being put forth equate the value of a vibrant, profitable operating business (Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) with a closed, dark, and abandoned commercial property.
  • MAC is working very closely with members of the House and Senate to find a fair, equitable and consistent way to value these properties so that each business actually pays their share of property taxes. 

 Consistent and Reliable Transportation Funding

  • Michigan’s roads and crumbling infrastructure costs us more money each year, stifles economic growth and is in part to blame for many traffic accidents.

MAC supports increasing revenue to aid in repairing and improving the state’s ailing infrastructure. MAC’s preferred method of raising revenue is through a 1% increase in sales tax devoted strictly to infrastructure improvements and to be distributed by current PA 51 formula.

Download Priorities here: MAC 2014 Priorites

Governor Recommends Full Funding for County Revenue Sharing in FY 2015

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Association of Counties (M.A.C.) is pleased that Governor Snyder has recommended 100% full funding for county revenue sharing totaling over $211 million for the FY 2015 budget. M.A.C. would like to thank the governor and his administration for this recommendation and for their untiring efforts to restore counties to full funding.

This marks the first time in 14 years that counties are in a position to receive full revenue sharing payments, last receiving full funding in FY 2001.

Although this is excellent news coming from the governor, it is just the first step in a long budget process. Both the House and Senate need to agree with the governor on his recommendations.

“I would like to thank the governor on behalf of all Michigan counties for this recommendation,” said Vice President of the M.A.C. Board of Directors and Allegan County Commissioner Jon Campbell. “M.A.C., along with county officials, has worked tirelessly to educate the governor and his administration on the uniqueness of county revenue sharing and how those dollars provide vital services to Michigan residents.”

The House and the Senate will start considering budgets as early as next week, and M.A.C. is hopeful that the legislature will adopt the governor’s recommendation, but is urging county commissioners to contact their legislators to support this proposal.

M.A.C. again wishes to thank Governor Snyder for this recommendation to fully fund county revenue sharing in FY 2015, and looks forward to working with the legislature to adopt this recommendation. If you have questions, please contact M.A.C. Director of Legislative Affairs Deena Bosworth at 517-372-5374 or bosworth@micounties.org.

State Owes Local Governments; Surplus Will Fund Owed Debt

LANSING, Mich. –With nearly a 1 billion dollar surplus projected, counties see this as the perfect time for the state to make good on its promise to pay back local units of government for their sacrifices to the state’s budget over the last decade.

The state has balanced the budget on the backs of local government by siphoning off more than $6 billion from revenue sharing to local units over the last decade. Counties in particular, have been a selfless partner, saving the state more than a billion dollars since 2005. This budgetary concession was made in an effort to help the state with its budget problems, with the understanding that the state would honor their funding obligations in the future. This promise has not been fully honored and the state continues to short counties by more than 20% each year.

Ignoring the statutory commitment to fund counties at the level required has become a habitual practice for the state. Counties are already stretched to their financial limit, making it difficult for them to pay for the multitude of state mandated services. County services may not be flashy, but they are critical for safe and functional communities. These state mandated services include courts, jails, 911, foster care, sheriffs, elections and the public health system.

“The tide has turned for state revenues and we are thrilled Michigan is turning around,” said the Michigan Association of Counties (M.A.C.) Board of Directors President Shelley Pinkelman. “Unfortunately, local governments are at a disadvantage. Our ability to recover from the recent recession is disproportionately slower than it is for state government and without the state honoring their financial obligations to local units, we will continue to struggle to provide the most basic of local services. It is critical that the legislature recognizes this and honors their statutory obligation to fund local government services.”

The legislature could allocate a mere $40 million to make counties whole in FY 2014.

The current model of mandating counties to deliver services on behalf of the state government without paying for those services is unsustainable. After nearly a decade of the state shirking their financial responsibility to local governments, the time to repay is now.

 

Another Hit to County Government

 Gov. Snyder presented his Fiscal Year 2014 budget today with a guaranteed funding increase for cities, villages, and townships (CVTs), while again disproportionately cutting revenue sharing to county government.

“It’s disappointing that the state continues to punish counties by consistently cutting their revenue sources,” said Thomas Bardwell, President of the Michigan Association of Counties (M.A.C.) Board of Directors.  “What they fail to realize is that counties cannot continue to provide all the services the state mandates if there is no funding for those services.”

Ignoring the statutory commitment to fund counties at the level required has become a habitual practice for the state.  Counties are already stretched to their financial limit, making it difficult for them to pay for the multitude of state mandated services including the courts, jails, 911, indigent defense, sheriffs, constitutional officers, elections and the public health system.

CVTs have been provided a 4% budget increase, and though it appears that funding for counties remains flat compared to last year, three additional counties are scheduled to come back into the revenue sharing formula this year, which current funding levels do not account for.

Counties have saved the state more than a billion dollars since 2005 when they gave up revenue sharing temporarily.  This was in an effort to help the state with its budget problem, and the state promised a return of that funding once reserves were depleted.  Counties will continue to help the state budget until the final county exhausts its reserve account well past the year 2020.

The current model of mandating counties to deliver services on behalf of the state government without paying for those services is unsustainable.  Counties look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to make sure that mandated services are funded.