Massive reform of county revenue sharing introduced

Sen. Wayne Schmidt finalizes paperwork to file legislation for a massive reform of county revenue sharing in Michigan.

Legislation to increase county revenue sharing and protect it from the annual appropriations process is now before the Michigan Legislature.

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse), Senate Bills 1160 and 1161 earmark 10 percent of the state’s sales tax for deposit each year into a new “Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.” Money in the fund has to be sent out each year, so the state can’t divert the dollars into its General Fund for other uses.

In addition, the bills require that 50 percent of that 10 percent be distributed to counties, with the other half going to cities, villages and townships in accordance with the distribution methodology in the FY23 budget (except for Emmet County, the last county back in the state revenue sharing formula, which would be treated as if it was a full year).

If enacted, counties could see an increase of at least 43 percent on their current revenue sharing dollars in the first year.  Additional increases would be based on the growth of the state’s sales tax.

The bills, developed by MAC in consultation with Schmidt and others, have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In the coming weeks, MAC will be sending out a digital advocacy campaign link and additional talking points for counties to use when reaching out to their legislators in support of these bills.

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

 

Opioids payment notice is out; review your document carefully

Counties will soon receive their first payment from the national Opioid Distributor Settlement. On Sept. 7, the notice regarding Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor settlement was sent to local governments.

Please note, however, that this notice reflects only Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor Settlement and does not include any funds from the Janssen Distributor Settlement. A separate notice will be sent regarding the Janssen funds.

Once counties have received the notice for Payment 1, they must take action as provided in the notice to receive payment as soon as possible.

BrownGreer, the national settlement administrator for both settlements, is responsible for providing notice to counties for settlement payments. This notice is crucial to receiving payment and outlines the Michigan State-Subdivision Agreement, how to receive payment, how to reallocate payment and information regarding the Special Circumstance Fund.

The Special Circumstance Fund provides additional opioid abatement funding to address a special circumstance of the opioid epidemic that was not addressed by the original calculations for local government’s allocation percentage. Counties are eligible to apply to the Special Circumstance Fund by Oct. 28. In addition to applying to the Special Circumstance Fund, counties have the right to dispute the calculation of the payment they will receive within 21 calendar days of receiving their settlement payment notice.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at Gibson@micounties.org.

 

Solar PILT bills receive Senate hearing

Legislation to create an optional structure for the taxes levied on solar facilities in Michigan received a hearing this week before the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology.

After years of participation on workgroups to ensure local options, a stable funding source, appropriate zoning considerations and adequate local reimbursements, MAC has taken a neutral position on the legislation.

Senate Bills 1106 and 1107, by Sens. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason) and Kevin Daley (R-Lapeer), would allow for the creation of solar energy districts by local municipalities after a mandatory public hearing.  Subsequently, solar energy developers could apply for an exemption from local property taxes and instead pay a flat rate of $7,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity for the proposed solar energy facility, instead of ad valorem property taxes. The payment would be locked in for 20 years and distributed based on the proportions of normal taxes that would have been paid to each taxing unit. 

An additional financial incentive would be offered for developers that choose to site their facilities on brownfield properties, in opportunity zones, as a secondary use on already improved real property (i.e., roof tops) or on state-owned property. In such cases, the reimbursement rate would be $2,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity. 

The impetus behind the legislation is twofold. First, this methodology for compensating locals for lost taxes will provide financial predictability for the developers and the locals, hopefully avoiding the same problems we have had with the challenges to the evaluation of wind turbines.  Second, the rate and process should serve as incentives for developers to build more renewable energy facilities in the state.  

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

 

Counties can again apply for rural broadband funds

Applications are now open for another round of funding for rural broadband through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service program, ReConnect. 

Eligible applicants can apply through the Rural Utilities Service portal by clicking here.  The application deadline is Nov. 2.

The ReConnect Loan and Grant Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

Award funds may be used to pay for the following costs:

  • To fund the construction or improvement of facilities required to provide fixed terrestrial broadband service.
  • To fund reasonable pre-application expenses.
  • To fund the acquisition of an existing system that does not currently provide sufficient access to broadband (eligible for 100 percent loan requests only).

Only projects that USDA determines to be financially feasible and sustainable will be eligible for an award. An eligible project must demonstrate a positive ending cash balance as reflected in the cash flow statement for each year of the forecast period and demonstrate positive cash flow from operations by the end of the forecast period. Eligible projects must also meet at least two of the following requirements: a minimum Times Interest Earned Ratio (TIER) requirement of 1.2, a minimum Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) requirement of 1.2, and a minimum Current Ratio of 1.2.

For more details on the program, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

 

Juvenile justice reform bills would boost funds for counties

Earlier this summer, the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform released its report and recommendations, including a higher reimbursement rate for counties on certain juvenile justice services. New legislation filed this week in Lansing would bring that recommendation into law.

Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) has introduced a set of bills to raise reimbursement rates and adopt the task force recommendation for a statewide juvenile public defense system. Her House Bills 634445 would expand the state’s indigent defense system to include juveniles, ensuring juveniles are eligible to receive these legal services. HB 6345 would expand the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to include representatives that are experienced and knowledgeable of the juvenile justice system, making certain that the best interests of youth within the juvenile justice system are accurately and adequately represented on the commission.

MAC supports the task force’s recommendations and efforts to better care for youth in the juvenile justice system. MAC has not yet taken a position on HBs 6344-6345, as we need to ensure adequate funding is provided to counties by the state to implement the juvenile indigent defense system. Conversations between MAC, the Legislature and other stakeholders regarding these bills are expected to take place in the coming months. 

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at Gibson@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 unveils expanded MAC advocacy team; details need for immediate action on court fees

MAC’s Podcast 83 returned from its summer hiatus with an expanded team this week as newly hired Governmental Affairs Associates Madeline Fata and Samantha Gibson joined the broadcast with Executive Director Stephan Currie and Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth.

The team discussed a looming Oct. 1 deadline to renew the authority for trial courts to impose fees, a key funding source, and the upcoming 2022 Annual Conference in Port Huron, Sept. 18-21.

Watch a video of the session here.

Previous episodes in 2022 can be seen at MAC’s YouTube Channel.

And you always can find details about Podcast 83 on the MAC website.

 

NACo sets webinar on opioids settlement for Aug. 31

Join the National Association of Counties (NACo) on Aug. 31, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern), for a webinar updating the latest news on the national opioid settlement.

Click here to register.

“Counties across the nation are on the front lines of the opioid and stimulant crisis providing essential public services. To enhance these efforts, refine approaches, fill gaps and help counties achieve their goals, NACo has partnered with the Opioid Response Network (ORN). ORN is a coalition of over 40 national organizations working to address the opioid crisis and stimulant use across all U.S. states and territories. ORN, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides free, localized education and training in evidence-based practices for the prevention, treatment and recovery of all substance use disorders. If you are in need of on-demand technical assistance, education, or training, ORN can help.

“In this webinar you will learn how ORN works and case examples of ways in which ORN has supported communities to explore, plan and implement locally designed strategies. Not sure where to begin? ORN can help. Participants will leave this webinar with an understanding of how counties can utilize this resource to support their work.”

Visit the event page for the most up-to-date information. Questions? Contact ahurley@naco.org.

 

Ottawa County teams up with local historian to commemorate original West Michigan highway

Local historian Blaine Knoll (left) and Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski install a new West Michigan Pike sign in Holland earlier this month. (photo: Rich Lakeberg)

The West Michigan Pike was once the premier way to travel along Michigan’s western shores. This highway running along Lake Michigan was conceived of and built during the second decade of the 20th century to accommodate the “horseless carriage,” opening up the region to tourism and the development it would bring.

Eventually, the Pike was replaced by state and U.S. highway systems and was mostly forgotten. But now, thanks to local historian Blaine Knoll, the Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact, and Grand Haven Area Community Foundation funds, the West Michigan Pike lives again. New signs commemorating this key piece of West Michigan tourism and automotive history are being installed along the original route.

“Beginning at the Ottawa-Allegan County line, the newly marked route stays as true to the original route as possible,” said Knoll. “It winds through the southwest side of Holland, follows a series of secondary roads, part of U.S.-31, then heads through Grand Haven and into Ferrysburg.”

The effort to recognize the original historic route doesn’t end with signs. Knoll and County staff are also developing a commemorative plaque to be placed where an original Pike marker from 1916 still stands along 152nd Avenue in Olive Township.

“The plaque recognizes the last known standing marker of the West Michigan Pike Historical Route. The installation of all the concrete pikes along the route was never completed due to the everchanging roadways. Witnessing this pike’s original location is significant to the route, and we are proud to highlight it,” said Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski. …

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By Rich Lakeberg/Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact

Local historian Blaine Knoll (left) and Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski install a new West Michigan Pike sign in Holland earlier this month. (photo: Rich Lakeberg)

The West Michigan Pike was once the premier way to travel along Michigan’s western shores. This highway running along Lake Michigan was conceived of and built during the second decade of the 20th century to accommodate the “horseless carriage,” opening up the region to tourism and the development it would bring.

Eventually, the Pike was replaced by state and U.S. highway systems and was mostly forgotten. But now, thanks to local historian Blaine Knoll, the Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact, and Grand Haven Area Community Foundation funds, the West Michigan Pike lives again. New signs commemorating this key piece of West Michigan tourism and automotive history are being installed along the original route.
“Beginning at the Ottawa-Allegan County line, the newly marked route stays as true to the original route as possible,” said Knoll. “It winds through the southwest side of Holland, follows a series of secondary roads, part of U.S.-31, then heads through Grand Haven and into Ferrysburg.”

The effort to recognize the original historic route doesn’t end with signs. Knoll and County staff are also developing a commemorative plaque to be placed where an original Pike marker from 1916 still stands along 152nd Avenue in Olive Township.

“The plaque recognizes the last known standing marker of the West Michigan Pike Historical Route. The installation of all the concrete pikes along the route was never completed due to the everchanging roadways. Witnessing this pike’s original location is significant to the route, and we are proud to highlight it,” said Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski.

The project has been years in the making. “It all started when I was young,” said Knoll of his interest in the Pike. “My dad told me about seeing the 64th Street portion in Allegan County being paved right after World War I.

Original 1915 tourist directory cover depicting the route of the West Michigan Pike.

Around 2011 I started mapping the whole route from Michigan City (Indiana) to the Straits of Mackinac.”

A few years later, Knoll approached Ottawa County with an idea to retrace the original Pike route. Working closely with Knoll, the Tri-Cities Museum in Grand Haven, Michigan Beachtowns and other stakeholders, staff created mockups of signage, and had the signs made. Funding for the signs was generously provided by the Elizabeth Davidson Kammeraad Dobbie Fund for History and the Greatest Needs Fund of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

In 2018, two original concrete West Michigan Pike road markers were discovered near Spring Lake. “They were being used as clothesline posts,” mused Knoll. Both have been loaned to the Tri-Cities Museum in Grand Haven for a time to display as part of a West Michigan Pike Exhibit. This interactive exhibit with numerous artifacts told the life story of the Pike.

In 2016, the state recognized a small section of the Pike as a “Pure Michigan Byway”, joining 22 other historic, scenic, and recreational Michigan byways that include M-22 byway, Tahquamenon, and the U.S.-12 Heritage Trail.

“It’s important that local history like this stays alive,” said Knoll. “I’m thankful to Ottawa County for allowing this project to go forward.”

For more information on the West Michigan Pike, visit www.michiganbeachtowns.com.

Have an interesting project under way in your county? MAC can help share the news. Send your details to Derek Melot at melot@micounties.org.

House committee approves extension for trial court funding

Michigan trial courts would continue to have the authority to impose fees, a critical funding element, until May 1, 2024, under a new version of a MAC-backed bill adopted by the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday.

House Bill 5956, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), was designed to address the crisis caused by the looming expiration of fee authority on Oct. 1, 2022.

Courts have long relied on fees to help fund operations. In 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court said, however, that courts could levy only fees specifically designated by the Legislature. MAC led a coalition to enact a legislative fix that was adopted in the fall. That legislation, to place “reasonably related” costs, has been extended twice already.

With the Oct. 1 deadline looming, MAC urges quick action on HB 5956 when the House returns to Lansing in late September. The bill must pass through both chambers and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prior to Oct. 1 to avoid a disruption in fee authority.

MAC will be asking for member outreach to legislators in late September as the final push for the bill begins.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Five candidates file for five seats on MAC Board

Commissioners attending the 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference (Sept. 18-21 in Port Huron) will vote in caucuses to fill five seats on the MAC Board of Directors after the candidate filing period closed on Thursday.

Five candidates filed for six available seats, with no one filing for the final year of an unexpired term for Seat B in Region 4. That seat will remain vacant until the next election opportunity at the 2023 Legislative Conference in April.

The five candidates for September each filed for election or re-election in different seats, as listed below:

  • At-large Seat B – William MIller of Oakland
  • Region 4 Seat A – Ken Mitchell of Clinton
  • Region 5 Seat A – Antoinette Wallace of Macomb (to fill 1 year of unexpired term; winner is still eligible to serve 3 full 3-year terms after first year)
  • Region 6 Seat A – Vaughn Begick of Bay
  • Region 6 Seat B – Scott Noesen of Midland

Seats representing regions are filled by a vote in regional caucuses at the conference. At-large seats are filled by the candidate that wins a majority of the six regional caucuses. The MAC Board of Directors is the key body in guiding the legislative and organizational strategies of MAC. Board terms are three years in length and individuals may serve up to three terms.

For more information on MAC Board elections, contact Executive Director Stephan Currie at scurrie@micounites.org.

 

Two new staffers join MAC advocacy team

Fata

Looking to build on recent success in Lansing capped by the enactment of 4-year terms for county commissioners in 2021, MAC expanded its Governmental Affairs Team today with the addition of two governmental affairs associates.

Madeline Fata comes to MAC from the offices of Rep. Ken Borton (R-Otsego), who is himself a former MAC Board president.

Fata (fata@micounties.org) also worked in the offices of state Sens. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse) and Dale Zorn (R-Monroe) and for Michigan Legislative Consultants, a Lansing-based lobbying firm.

She has a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University, with a secondary degree in anthropology. Between Fata and Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth (anthropology, Western Michigan University), MAC may have the largest anthropology contingent of any advocacy office in the United States!

Gibson

Samantha Gibson has even deeper ties to MAC, having served as an intern on our Governmental Affairs Team in 2019-20.

Gibson (gibson@micounties.org) was most recently the legislative director for Rep. Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw), where she focused on policy work for the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee. Gibson has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Michigan State University.

Madeline will staff MAC’s policy committees on Transportation and on Environmental, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs.

Sam will staff MAC’s policy committees on Health and Human Services and on Judiciary and Public Safety.

“I am very excited to bring on both of these up-and-coming women to our staff,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “Each brings a level of expertise, personality and advocacy skills that will help shape and define the future of our organization.”

 

MAC on broadband: Counties have big role to play

Deena Bosworth, center, emphasized importance of counties in the buildout of broadband services at a policy workshop on Thursday, Aug. 18.

Counties are uniquely positioned as regional governments to play an essential role in the buildout of broadband services in Michigan, a MAC staffer told a workshop audience on broadband policy on Thursday.

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs, also emphasized the need for  counties to be eligible to receive federal BEAD funding and to have the option of owning the fiber that is put in the ground at the event, “Internet for All: Michigan Local Coordination Workshop, put on by Michigan’s new High-Speed Internet Office. She was joined on a panel by representatives from the Michigan Association of Townships and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

The panel focused on upcoming federal and state funding opportunities and emphasized the need for local units of government to be included in conversations about distributing those funds. Each panelist expressed interest in working closely with private providers to expedite the planning process.

The common themes of the day were a need for rapid broadband expansion, a desire for collaboration between entities and a vision for affordable and easily accessible internet throughout Michigan.

MAC will continue its focus on this critical issue with a plenary session at the 2022 Annual Conference, Sept. 18-21 in Port Huron. For details on conference events, click here.

 

Public employees may be eligible for federal student loan relief

The state is encouraging Michiganders working in public service to review the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to see if they qualify for federal student loan relief no later than October 31, 2022. Thousands have already utilized the program to pay off their debt, and over 148,000 more Michiganders may be eligible due to the recent PSLF waiver, says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

More than 4,700 Michiganders have successfully applied for debt relief and have had $260 million in loans forgiven. On average, that is $55,000 per borrower.

Until Oct. 31, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education is offering public servants working in government and eligible non-profits a second chance to qualify for student loan forgiveness. An estimated 154,000 public service workers in Michigan could be eligible for student loan debt relief under the PSLF waiver. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid’s June report, over 6,000 Michiganders have taken advantage of the PSLF waiver and have had $358 million in loans forgiven.

The recent changes to the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program allow previously ineligible borrowers — those with a non-Direct loan, who are not enrolled in an income driven repayment plan, who have missed a repayment, or made a partial repayment in the past — to receive credit toward loan forgiveness for the years they worked in government or a qualifying non-profit.  

To apply for the PSLF waiver, borrowers should: 

  • Visit studentaid.gov/pslf/employer-search/search-tool to verify their employer qualifies for PSLF.   
  • Submit a certified copy of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification form to the U.S. Department of Education before Oct. 31.   

If borrowers have questions regarding their individual situation, they can visit studentaid.gov/pslf/ or call FedLoan Servicing at 1-855-265-4038.  

Congress created Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) to recruit and retain top talent in the public sector workforce. If an individual works for federal, state, local, or tribal government or a qualifying non-profit for 10 years, makes 120 full, on-time loan payments, and submits all required paperwork, the federal government forgives all of their remaining student loan debt. 

 

Looking to build on recent success in Lansing capped by the enactment of 4-year terms for county commissioners in 2021, MAC expanded its Governmental Affairs Team today with the addition of two governmental affairs associates.

Fata

Madeline Fata comes to MAC from the offices of Rep. Ken Borton (R-Otsego), who is himself a former MAC Board president.

Fata (fata@micounties.org) also worked in the offices of state Sens. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse) and Dale Zorn (R-Monroe) and for Michigan Legislative Consultants, a Lansing-based lobbying firm.

She has a bachelor’s degree in social science from Michigan State University, with a secondary degree in anthropology. Between Fata and Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth (anthropology, Western Michigan University), MAC may have the largest anthropology contingent of any advocacy office in the United States!

Samantha Gibson has even deeper ties to MAC, having served as an intern on our Governmental Affairs Team in 2019-20.

Gibson

Gibson (gibson@micounties.org) was most recently the legislative director for Rep. Rodney Wakeman (R-Tuscola), where she focused on policy work for the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee. Gibson has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Michigan State University.

Madeline will staff MAC’s policy committees on Transportation and on Environmental, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs.

Sam will staff MAC’s policy committees on Health and Human Services and on Judiciary and Public Safety.

“I am very excited to bring on both of these up-and-coming women to our staff,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “Each brings a level of expertise, personality and advocacy skills that will help shape and define the future of our organization.”

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