Revenue sharing increase highlights Gov. Whitmer’s FY21 budget

Michigan counties would see a $5.7 million boost to state revenue sharing payments under spending plans released today by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for fiscal year 2021.

In her second budget plan, Whitmer advises the Legislature to appropriate $232.2 million in statutory revenue sharing for counties, a roughly 2.5 percent increase from FY20 levels, from an $11 billion General Fund. The governor’s proposal would extend a recent trend of modest increases in revenue sharing as Michigan emerged from the Great Recession.

Whitmer also is recommending $7.2 million to support recommendations of a joint county-state Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force and $40 million in grants for local governments to address flooding and infrastructure issues created by rising water levels around the state.

“Any increase is good news for our members, who are still struggling with the effects of the Great Recession and state limitations on property tax revenue,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “Still, in other areas of the budget, resources to counties are flat or even trending downward.”

Currie noted such areas as:

  • Funding for county veteran services grants: $2 million recommended for FY21, down from $4 million in FY20.
  • Funding for Secondary Road Patrol for county sheriffs: $11.1 million recommended for FY21, down from $13 million in FY20.
  • Reimbursements to county jails for housing state prisoners: $14.8 million recommended for FY21, flat from FY20.
  • Funding for “essential local public health services”: $51.4 million recommended for FY21, flat from FY20.

“We agree with the governor’s remarks this week that funding for local services is a crisis created by many decisions over many years in Lansing. We appreciate her commitment to a conversation on addressing that trend. Now is the time to do so, when Michigan’s economy is moving at a solid pace,” Currie argued.

FY21 Estimated Revenue Sharing by County

For more information on the state budget, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Who controls your county buildings?

A bill discussed in the Senate Local Government Committee this week would mandate that a local unit of government allow an elected official to place his or her non-political constituent informational materials in their buildings.

Senate Bill 719 sponsor Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Macomb) also referenced a substitute to the bill that prohibits anyone from denying access to an elected official who wished to hold a constituent informational meeting at any state or local governmental office that is open to the public.

MAC testified in opposition to the legislation on the grounds that the Legislature should not enact a law prescribing what a county must do in buildings owned by the county. The bill and substitute bill, as written, do not limit the places within county buildings where any elected official from the area can place their materials or hold public meetings. And they would not allow a county to deny a time or place for such meetings, even if other meetings or functions were already scheduled for the space. Further, they do not limit the quantity of materials that may be placed anywhere an elected official chooses, nor do they specify that access can be denied when the buildings are not open for business.

MAC will continue to work with the bill sponsor to protect local control of locally owned facilities. For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Senate committee briefed on child welfare corrections

The Senate Families, Seniors and Veterans Committee heard an update (attachment) from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on state’s Children Rights modified Implementation Sustainability and Exit Plan (ISEP). Senior Deputy Director for the Children’s Services Agency (CSA) JooYeun Chang provided an overview from since the state became the subject of federal scrutiny after it settled Dwayne B. v Granholm (U.S. Eastern District Docket No. 06-13548) in 2008, which led to a consent decree requiring several state changes.

The hope was that the ISEP could help DHHS exit federal monitoring within the next few years. But in 2018, a child welfare audit showed the state had undercounted the number of abused, and that homes used by relatives for child placement did not meet safety standards.

In June 2019, the ISEP was modified again in recognition of progress to the MDHHS child welfare system resulting in a focused agreement on six principles: safety, children’s needs, families and communities, placement, reunification and permanency and services. Chang emphasized progress to reduce CPS call wait times by centralizing the intake process and noted the number of dropped or abandoned calls had fallen from 1,400 to below 150, as of January.

Based on the tweaked agreement, to exit the ISEP, MDHHS must meet all conditions and maintain performance standards for at least two consecutive reporting periods. And it cannot have any outstanding requests for corrective action plans. Twenty-six jurisdictions are under a similar consent decree to Michigan’s.

The state also is implementing new federal requirements under the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018. The governor’s FY21 budget includes $8.6 million for programs to prevent children from entering foster care and to reduce the utilization of residential care for foster children. According to the governor’s plan, costs will be offset by estimated savings of $11.3 million ($5.3 million General Fund) resulting from fewer children entering the foster care system. The governor also is requesting $20.6 million to complete the first phase of the replacement of the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS) with a cloud-based system. And the budget calls for $11.3 million ($5.8 million General Fund) for this new system as a fiscal year 2020 supplemental appropriation. The entire upgrade for all phases is planned to be completed by FY25.

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

 

Bills would redistribute funds from bottle deposits

A bipartisan package of bills intended to prevent bottle deposit fraud would also redistribute funds generated by unclaimed bottle deposits, sponsors told a House committee this week.

House Bills 5422-5425 received a hearing this week in the House Regulatory Reform Committee.

The heart of the bill package is HB 5423, by Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Kalamazoo), which would reconstitute how the “escheat” money (or unredeemed deposits) is spent. Current law divides the money this way: 75 percent to the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund for contaminated site cleanup and remediation and 25 percent to reimburse dealers/retailers for losses. HB 5423 would revamp that formula: 20 percent would go to new reimbursements for distributors, 25 percent would continue to reimburse retailers, 15 percent would go to a new Bottle Enforcement Fund to crack down on fraud and abuse and the remaining 40 percent would be split between the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund and the Renew Michigan Fund, which funds recycling grants, solid waste planning and contaminated site cleanup. Each year, unclaimed deposits generate about $40 million in revenue.

Since the bottle deposit law was adopted via voter initiative in the 1970s, any change would require a ¾ vote in each chamber.

MAC does not yet have a position on these bills.

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

Deadline is Feb. 21 on veteran service grants

Counties that filed Letters of Intent now have until Feb. 21 to formally apply with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) for the FY20 County Veteran Service Fund grant monies.

Per law, each grant award will consist of a $50,000 base payment. Per capita payments also will be processed based on the county’s veteran population. MVAA will review applications between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28. It will announce awards and denials on March 2.

An FY20 supplemental appropriation included $4 million for the fund after months of negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. The letter from the agency states, “(T)he goal and intent of these grant dollars are to enhance and improve county veteran service operations in an effort to connect more veterans to their benefits and provide consistent access to services throughout the state.”

If counties have any questions about uses of the funds, please consider connecting with surrounding counties or MAC. For questions of MVAA, contact MVAAGrants@michigan.gov.

For other questions or information, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

 

State offers free naxolone to county jails

County jails may request naloxone via a new portal built by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The department eventually plans to offer the drug, used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, to a variety of community organizations. MDHHS is recommending counties issue the drug to high-risk individuals at discharge from jail. (See the letter sent to Michigan sheriffs from MDHHS.)

You can access the portal here.

For more information, contact Jared Welehodsky of MDHHS at 517-284-4761 or welehodskyj@michigan.gov.

 

Feb. 11 webcast to focus on broadband gap

County leaders are encouraged to view a Pew Charitable Trusts webcast, “How to Bridge the Broadband Gap: A Conversation with State Leaders,” which will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 11.

“Though access to high-speed, reliable internet is an increasingly critical tool for modern American life, the Federal Communications Commission estimates that at least 21 million Americans still lack broadband access. Other counts suggest this number could be as high as 162 million. Although much of the conversation about expanding broadband access has focused on the federal and local levels, states are taking decisive steps to expand this critical service to communities that lack it or are underserved.

Tune in for insights on: 

  • New research on 5 steps to effectively expand access
  • State promising practices
  • “Universal truths” of successful initiatives

Click here for details and to watch live on Feb. 11.

 

Newsletter to focus on solutions to opioid crisis

As part of the Opioid Treatment Ecosystem initiative, the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University is developing a Community of Practice with a network of counties who are focused on expanding opioid antagonist treatment and implementing overdose prevention activities.

The center has developed a newsletter with information we hope you find helpful in your efforts to strengthen the treatment ecosystem in your community. In future newsletters, the center will provide information on training and funding opportunities, address shared barriers and highlight the success of county efforts.

To be placed on the newsletter delivery list, email “OTE” to CBHJ@wayne.edu.

 

National news from NACo

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).

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.

jerry-doucette-sept-2015Jerry Doucette, chair of the Alger County Board of Commissioners, has been appointed a member of the National Association of Counties (NACo) Board. The appointment was made on Dec. 9 at a NACo Board session in Tallahassee, Fla.

Doucette, who also serves on the Michigan Association of Counties’ Board as Immediate Past President, was selected to replace Oceana County Commissioner Evelyn Kolbe, who passed away in November.

“With this board appointment, I will be able to continue my work on the Economic Development and Workforce Committee, the Rural Action Caucus, Veterans Committee and Membership Committee with NACO,” Doucette said. “It is so important for MAC and NACo to partner together to protect counties’ needs for funding and continue to be the voices of county government to state and federal governmental leaders.”

The NACo Board “governs the strategic goals, policies and priorities of the association, as well as oversees the association’s policies, business and property.”

“We are pleased that Jerry Doucette will be able to continue Evelyn’s fine work on behalf of Michigan at the national level,” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director. “Jerry’s knowledge of the issues, gained from extensive service with MAC and NACo, will pay off for Michigan’s county governments.”

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