Michigan Township Association has issued their report “Reforming Michigan’s Local Government” where they describe Michigan’s current local government structure as one of the most efficient in the nation. However, they still suggest recommendations for reform and provide reform principles that Michigan’s local governments should adopt. The report suggests that consolidation is not always the best answer to relieve the fiscal stress on local governments. In fact, often times consolidation may increase the costs that are attributed to local governments. The road blocks to consolidation include a calculation of what the correct amount of local governments may be, lack of public support for consolidation, logistical issues associated with consolidation (which may take five or more years) and the fact that consolidation may not decrease local government costs. Also included in this report is a discussion on sharing services which describes the barriers (legal, political, and economic) associated with shared services and the incentives that may be set in place to foster shared services.
The Association recognizes that economic development is a principle that should be facilitated by local governments encouraging them to collaborate and form regional economic strategies. The Association notes that cities are the economic driving force within local governments and that when they are prospering it creates a ripple effect that is felt by the rural and suburban economies. With these principles in mind several suggestions were made to the Michigan state government that would enhance economic development at the grassroots (local government) level including the collaboration of key leaders in the public and private sectors to identify community assets and how to use those assets to encourage new businesses, new housing developments, and new populations. This report concludes by noting that regional economic development is the most important challenge facing local governments and should be the focus when seeking to resolve the local fiscal crisis.
The Michigan Townships Association report is available here.