Evans to hold local government financing forums

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans plans to launch a series of forums this week for municipal officials statewide to discuss local government financing reform.

Evans said the series of meetings, called “Investing in Michigan Communities: Finding Fair Funding for Strong, Successful Communities,” will kick off Wednesday in Trenton. He said the goal of the meetings is to “identify solutions to fix Michigan’s broken model for funding local governments.”

“I don’t really see anyone else leading the charge (to fix the funding system) right now,” he said. “The method now for financing municipal governments has a lot to be desired. Hopefully, we’ll come up with some things that will help to improve that.”

The launch of the series comes a couple of months after Evans said in his State of the County address that he would organize a summit of elected officials, community leaders, economists and others to study overhauling the state’s current system for financing municipalities.

“We want to learn from them, and we want to hear what other communities have to say,” he said. “My sense is they’re going to have the same core issues Wayne County has.”

Property taxes are typically local governments’ biggest source of revenue, but those dropped when the state fell into a deep economic downturn. At the same time, municipal governments’ other main source of money — state revenue sharing — also declined.

Evans said Wayne County’s 43 cities and townships have lost more than $1.2 billion in revenue sharing between 2002 and 2016.

The meetings will focus on the history of the system, how local communities are being impacted and discussing possible solutions, Evans said. A local government official will also give their perspective on the system. Rick Sollars, the mayor of Taylor, is scheduled to present at the first meeting.

The second is planned for July in Grand Rapids, and consequent meetings will be held in the Upper Peninsula in August, Lansing in September, Traverse City in October and Flint in November.

Findings from the meetings will be presented along with some recommendations at the series’ final meeting, scheduled for January in southeastern Michigan, Evans said.

Evans has assembled a team of experts from Michigan State University’s Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, the Michigan Municipal League, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the Michigan Association of Counties and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments who will attend and speak at the meetings.

James Canning, Evans’ spokesman said, the county executive has also been working with County Commissioner Joe Palamara, D-Grosse Ile, chairman of the Commission’s Ways and Means Committee, to organize the series of meetings.

Everything for the meetings — the guest speakers, the venues, audio equipment and refreshments — has been donated and there will be only a nominal costs to the county, Canning said.


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