Budget talks stuck; your voice needed to propel action

October has come and gone, but Michigan leaders still have not resolved a budget impasse that imperils millions in county funding for key programs.

While MAC is told that discussions between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders are ongoing, no positive results have resulted.

It is vital, therefore, for every county leader who has not already done so to contact their state officials and urge immediate action on supplemental appropriations bills. Your voice is very powerful; MAC needs your support in order to incite movement toward restoring the funding that was slashed by the governor’s vetoes.

  • You can call the governor’s office at 517-373-3400.
  • Click here for the House of Representatives’ phone list.
  • Click here for the Senate’s phone list.

Members also are encouraged to utilize our Advocacy Center to send pre-drafted messages to lawmakers with just a few clicks of your computer.

For more information, please contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

House panel takes up delinquent tax forgiveness

A bill that would authorize a foreclosing governmental unit to forgive some or all unpaid delinquent property taxes, fees and interest for those meeting poverty eligibility guidelines or qualify for disabled veteran property tax exemption received its first hearing this week.

The House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance took testimony on House Bill 5124, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-Wayne)., which  was introduced to assist those communities faced with residents in poverty who are losing their homes because they cannot keep up with the taxes, interest, fees and penalties.

MAC has not yet taken a position on the bill, but is encouraged that the bill is permissible, not mandatory, on counties, which preserves local control and allows counties to tailor the program to what best suits their residents.

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

County officials: Community corrections good, but could be better

Leaders in community corrections programs around Michigan gave testimony this week to a House appropriations subcommittee on the state of such programs and ideas to improve them.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Ionia), heard from Andrew Verheek of Kent County Office of Community Corrections (OCC); Mary McLaughlin of Saginaw County OCC; David Stevens of Thumb Area Regional OCC; and Ionia County’s Ron Morseau and Brent Denny.  

All spoke to the benefits of community corrections programming, as well as how the system could be improved with state policy changes. Saginaw’s McLaughlin, for example, noted, “The Pretrial Supervision Program has grown to monitor more than 600 offenders per year with a 70 percent success rate in a community where violent crime was once rated nationally.”

Suggestions for the legislative action included more flexibility between funds for the felony drunken driver jail reduction program and community corrections plans and services funds, since the population typically overlaps. Ideas were shared to improve risk assessment data sharing between state and locals, along with goals to maximize the referrals to programs.

A Department of Corrections representative also spoke to some of the ways the system could be improved, while noting some county programs are recognized nationally for their successful programming.

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

Michigan adopts ‘Raise the Age’ legislation



Michigan will no longer automatically charge 17-year-old defendants as adults, following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature this week on so-called “Raise the Age” legislation.

MAC supported the final version of the package after modifications were made to ensure proper funding for additional juvenile justice services under county purview.

“I’m proud that Michigan has joined 46 other states in ending the unjust practice of charging and punishing our children as adults when they make mistakes,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release. “These bills will strengthen the integrity of our justice system by ensuring that children have access to due process that is more responsive to juveniles.” 

Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, Michigan law will handle most 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. MAC had long expressed concerns to legislators about the financial and service implications of this shift. However, after much negotiation, changes to the bills addressed those concerns, allowing MAC to support the final versions.

For further information on the final bill package, see the Legislative Update from Oct. 18.

Kent County leaders urge rescue of foster care pilot

Kent County leaders testified before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of a performance-based foster care program now at risk of closure due to the fiscal 2020 budget fights in Lansing.

Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent), chair of the Community Health/Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, took testimony regarding the West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC). MacGregor has been a champion for foster care and this enhanced program in Kent County throughout his time in the Legislature.  

On Oct 1. 2017, responsibility for 800 Kent County children transferred under the new model for WMPC to administer with a front-loaded case rate that incentivizes getting children out of the foster care system sooner. This transition began the first year of a projected five-year pilot.

But with nearly $2 million transferred by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through the State Administrative Board for FY20, the pilot program is in jeopardy of closing only two years into the five-year trial. WMPC CEO Kristyn Peck told the subcommittee about improved outcomes such as a decreased length of stay for foster children and more immediate permanency, plus the benefits of enhanced wrap-around foster care services.  

Kent County Board Chair Mandy Bolter and Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt urged restoration of the funds as soon as possible. Bolter asked the committee to “work together to restore this funding because if not, we will have to shut the doors on Nov. 14.”

Britt explained how the pilot model “simplifies our child-care funding system to focus on results and not who pays.” He added, “This is an opportunity to create a quality system that focused on the kids and their time in care.”

Proponents see the pilot as the first step in improvements for foster care efforts around the state.

If funding is not restored, WMPC’s caseload would move to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). To help advocate for Kent County and WMPC, click here.

Survey finds wide variance in county recession prep

Less than half of Michigan counties have taken preparatory steps in advance of the next recession, a new survey of local public officials found.

In its new release, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan found: “Although most of Michigan’s local governments report slow but steady improvement in fiscal health over the decade since the Great Recession, many local leaders express concerns about weathering the next recession, whenever it arrives.”

In county-only data provided by CLOSUP to MAC, 45 percent of respondents said preparatory steps had been taken, with big differences by county size. For larger counties, those with more than 30,000 residents, nearly 57 percent had reported actions, while the same was true for only 29 percent of smaller counties.

CLOSUP emphasized that this is a self-reported survey with a small sample size for counties.

To see all the CLOSUP data, click here.

State sends scrap tire grants to two dozen county entities

About 25 counties and count entities will receive nearly $700,000 in state grants to support scrap tire collections and other tire cleanup efforts.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced the grants this week to 72 such events, awarding $1,277,351; another five grant projects will fund the removal of old tire piles at private properties, the department said.

Counties and county entities receiving funds:

  • Alcona, $4,000
  • Superior Watershed Partnership, $70,000
  • SW Michigan Solid Waste Consortium, $94,000
  • NE Michigan Council of Governments, $6,255
  • Bay County Mosquito Control, $8,000
  • Benzie County Solid Waste Dept., $8,032
  • Charlevoix, $11,444
  • Crawford, $6,108
  • Emmet County Dept. of Public Works, $14,550
  • Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, $10,000
  • Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Dept., $8,000
  • Kalkaska County Recycling Center, $4,000
  • Leelanau, $4,216
  • Lenawee, $6,000
  • Livingston, $10,000
  • Manistee, $12,000
  • Marquette County Solid Waste Mgt. Authority, $65,000
  • Mecosta, $200,000
  • Midland County Mosquito Control, $4,000
  • Monroe County, $20,000
  • Muskegon County, $56,376
  • Newaygo County Board of Public Works, $8,152
  • Ottawa, $14,500
  • Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission, $10,000
  • Sanilac, $4,000
  • Schoolcraft, $2,000
  • St. Joseph, $4,000
  • Tuscola County Recycling, $22,000
  • Washtenaw County Public Works, $8,000

For more information, call the EGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278, or visit Michigan’s Scrap Tire Program at Michigan.gov/ScrapTires. To stay up to date on other EGLE news follow us at Michigan.gov/MiEnvironment.

State sets Nov. 12 webinar on shoreline erosion issues

County leaders are encouraged to participate in a Nov. 12 webinar that will review shoreline erosion issues and work by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)

The webinar will run from 11 a.m. to noon. Click here to register.

“Due to higher water levels in the Great Lakes, Michigan’s shoreline communities and residents are experiencing an increase in shoreline erosion,” the department stated. “This webinar is an opportunity for local officials to learn more about EGLE’s response to Great Lakes shoreline erosion, the basic rules and processes for obtaining permits for shoreline protection projects, efforts EGLE is taking to expedite permits, and how you and your constituents can communicate and partner most effectively with us.  The webinar will include a short presentation followed by time for questions from attendees.” 

EGLE also has a new webpage dedicated to the topic, Michigan.gov/HighWater, with resources for local readers and residents.

For more information or assistance, send a note to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov

Learn about ‘myths’ of tax incentives in Michigan

A longtime analyst of Michigan’s economy will lead a webinar on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. to address common myths about the value of tax incentives in economic development.

In “Making Sense of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity,” Timothy J. Bartik, a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute, will show how:

  • Incentives don’t tip every location decisions of assisted businesses
  • Once one accounts for the public service needs caused by job growth, typical incentives do not pay for themselves
  • Incentives only have slight “fiscal benefits” (fiscal benefits are the increase in tax revenue minus the increase in needed public services’ spending)

To join the free webinar, go to http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd1, “enter as a guest” is by default already chosen. Type your name into the text box provided and click on “Enter Room.” To facilitate Q&A’s, participants submit questions/comments via the Chat Function in Adobe Connect. See the event flier for more information.

The webinar will be recorded and archived at http://ncrcrd.msu.edu/ncrcrd/chronological_archive.

Share your county experiences on energy issues

A new survey effort from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy — the Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES) — seeks county leaders’ responses on your county’s engagement (or not) with energy policies such as energy efficiency and reducing energy waste, renewable energy on county land, electric vehicle infrastructure and more. If someone from your county hasn’t already participated in the survey, please be on the lookout for an email with an online link or a hard copy in the mail.

Your county’s answers to the MiLES survey will remain strictly confidential. However, at the end of the survey, respondents have the opportunity to indicate whether their county would like to be contacted about resources for, or assistance with, specific energy issues, like communicating with residents and local businesses — including agriculture — about energy issues, energy audits or benchmarking for public buildings, energy-related funding opportunities, and more.

For more information, contact CLOSUP at closup@umich.edu or 734-647-4091.

As county leaders digest the budget vetoes from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the fiscal implications only keep growing for county governments and the residents they serve.

Crawford: ‘Swamp tax’ is big hit to tight budget

For Crawford County, the cuts mean the county could lose $547,405, which is nine percent of the county’s $5.6 million budget.

“That includes non-payment of $338,500 in swamp taxes from the state, which are paid through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The tax has been collected since 1934 after lumber barons left land after the trees were harvested and it reverted back to the state for non-payment of taxes.”

Jackson: Secondary Road Patrol looms large

“In Jackson County, board vice chairman David Elwell, a Republican, said Whitmer’s vetoes will cost the county more than $800,000 in cuts to secondary road patrol and other programs, if they remain in place until the start of the county’s fiscal year on Jan. 1.”

No night patrols in Osceola?

Vetoes will cut $218,000 in revenue, or 2 percent of General Fund revenue in a county already addressing a $1.3 million budget shortfall.

“We may lose or reassign a deputy with the loss of the secondary road patrol money. Our Sheriff’s Department currently provides the only 24-hour road patrol, as the cities and State Police do not have night shift coverage. The loss or reassignment of a deputy affects our whole county’s law enforcement coverage and could make our citizens more vulnerable to crime.

“The state encouraged us through veterans grants to create and staff departments to assist our veterans. If we lose the grant funding for these positions, 1 full-time equivalent would need to be reduced in the department that only has 1.85 FTEs. They will not be able to provide services and assist veterans utilizing the equipment and resources we have obtained through the grant funding.”

Roscommon’s deficit battle just got worse

“Just recently, officials in Roscommon County in northern Michigan were finalizing the 2020 budget and worrying over about how to erase a projected $200,000 deficit,” the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

“Now Roscommon, which has 24,000 residents and a budget of just over $9 million, is looking at an $800,000 shortfall. ‘There is definitely going to be a reduction in staff, if this thing sticks,’ Robert Schneider, chairman of the county board of commissioners, said Friday. Schneider, a Democrat and retired supermarket manager who is in his 13th year on the county board, said the only saving grace for Roscommon is that, unlike many other counties, its fiscal year does not start until Jan. 1.”

Patrol gains on brink of being lost in Branch

“Branch County Sheriff John Pollack warned if Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature do not put back vetoed funds for road patrols, he must cut back patrol services to weekdays and to one eight-hour daytime shift,” reported The Daily Reporter. “The move would require layoff of a deputy. The county added a deputy last year in the budget. The sheriff received about $60,000 for the secondary patrol deputy each year from the state grants. It again had been approved for the 2019-2020 fiscal year from the state before the veto. The additional deputies in the last two years allow for extended hours and weekend coverage by deputies. Pollack said there are funds in the 2019 county budget to keep the deputy until the new county budget begins in January.”

Isabella sheriff looking at $200,000 hole

“While the talk in Lansing is that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s line-item vetoes whacked the Pure Michigan tourism campaign, closer to home they had Sheriff Michael Main looking at a $200,000 hole they suddenly opened in his budget,” reports The Morning Sun.

Running estimates on veto effects

Lost funding estimates provided to MAC by county officials include:

County Funding Lost Pct. of Budget
Ontonagon $238,000 6%
Crawford $547,405 9.1%
Roscommon $728,064 6.9%
Dickinson $584,750 6%
Missaukee $260,279 5.2%
Otsego $369,000 5%
Clare $394,034 3%
St. Joseph $376,314 2.5%
Gratiot $311,000 2.3%
Osceola $218,000 2%
Houghton $226,500 1.8%
Mason $243,000 1.7%
Allegan $722,000 2.1%
Monroe $701,417 1.5%
Wexford $232,910 1.4%
Mecosta $169,120 1.3%
Sanilac $136,000 1%

 

Ionia $638,388 N/A
Jackson $861,500 N/A
Ingham up to $825,000 N/A
Menominee $369,000 N/A
Marquette $818,000 N/A
Eaton $600,000 N/A
Emmet $262,190 N/A
Newaygo $199,617 N/A
Presque Isle $207,184 N/A
Midland $686,365 N/A
Tuscola $468,401 N/A
Kalamazoo $1,168,000 N/A
Lapeer $212,874 N/A
Kent $1,745,522 N/A
Calhoun $1,000,000 N/A
Cheboygan $576,357 N/A
Clinton $440,000 N/A
Delta $318,000 N/A
Gogebic $108,438 N/A
Grand Traverse $322,420 N/A
Lenawee $224,000 N/A
Muskegon $641,735 N/A
Van Buren $572,000 N/A
Schoolcraft $644,000 N/A
Mackinac $511,136 N/A
Keweenaw $116,777 N/A
Baraga $746,724 N/A
St. Clair $555,965 N/A
Branch $148,904 N/A
Iron $297,000 N/A
Alger $594,625 N/A
Chippewa $220,473 N/A
Luce $676,000 N/A

 

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday issued 147 line-item vetoes in the FY20 budget, affecting more than $947 million in state spending. Although the 2.3 percent increase (about $5 million) for county revenue sharing evaded the vetoes, other line items for specific programs and services provided by counties were hit, stripping away about $60 million in funding for county programs.

“While we see that counties were collateral damage in a fight between the governor and the Legislature, there’s no way to sugarcoat what $60 million in cuts mean to our members,” said Stephan Currie, MAC executive director. “These are significant, troubling reductions. We plan to make a vigorous case to both sides that these results need to be reversed as quickly as possible with a supplemental appropriations bill.”

Among the reductions to county services affected by Whitmer’s moves are:

  • $27 million taken from the PILT (payments in lieu of taxes) program that counties rely on to be compensated for public lands that do not pay taxes (49.5 percent of all land in Crawford County, for example, is owned by the state)
  • $14.9 million taken from the state’s program to reimburse county jails for housing state inmates
  • $13 million taken from funds to aid sheriffs in providing road patrols around their counties
  • $4 million taken from funding to counties under the Child Care Fund, which covers Michigan’s foster care system
  • $4 million taken from grants meant for county services to veterans
  • $2.7 million taken from reimbursements for court-appointed guardians
  • $1 million taken from grants meant for county fairs and other exhibitions

Learn more about the situation by listening to a new episode of MAC’s Podcast 83.

Despite falling arrests, particularly among young people, tens of thousands of people in Michigan are still arrested for low-level charges like failure to appear in court, marijuana possession and shoplifting, the Michigan Jail and Pretrial Detention Task Force was told by researchers during the task force’s meeting in Grand Rapids on Sept. 20.

A team from PEW Trusts gave the task force a wide-ranging presentation on the trends and challenges in dealing with jail populations. The task force, a joint effort of the state and counties, was created by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this spring.

Other points made by Pew during its report:

  • People are also going to jail in very large numbers for administrative rule-breaking like driving without a valid license and violating probation conditions. 
  • Officers issue fewer citations in lieu of arrest than they have in past years.  Overall, arrests far outnumber citations, even for low-level crimes.
  • Short jail stays disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives, but Michigan’s high jail populations are driven by relatively few people who stay in jail longer than a month. 

Panel members, including Kent County Commissioner Jim Talen and Alpena County Commissioner Bill Peterson, also received a briefing from Wayne State University on mental illness and substance abuse in Michigan jails.

The team, led by Sheryl Kubiak of the Wayne State Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, said that 23 percent of jail inmates exhibited serious mental illness (SMI), but with rates varying notably by the size of the county. In rural counties, for example, 34 percent were identified with SMI.

Also, inmates with SMI had average jail stays twice as long as those without SMI, when adjusting for criminal offense. Longer stays, of course, mean more strains on limited county budgets which must support jail operations.

“Identifying who is going to jail, for how long and why, is critical for the Task Force so they can fully understand the scope of our jail population and create recommendations that may result in savings for county budgets, while ensuring the public safety of our communities,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

The task force meets next on Oct. 18 in Detroit. Livestreaming will be available. Anyone is encouraged to connect with the Task Force in various ways:

Oakland County Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub, who served as president of the MAC Board in 2016-17, was appointed to the Board of the National Association of Counties (NACo) during NACo’s recent Annual Conference.

At the same event, Taub also was re-appointed as chair of NACo’s Arts and Culture Commission and vice chair of its Human Services and Education Steering Committee.

“I am honored to have been reappointed to these leadership roles,” Taub stated in an Oakland County release. “I look forward to building on the work that we’ve already accomplished and continuing to address important issues that impact all of us.”

Taub was first elected to the MAC Board in 2012. As president in 2016-17, she spearheaded the creation of MAC’s Commissioners Forum, an online message board where Michigan commissioners can post questions and share best practices.