LANSING — Michigan ranks seventh in the nation in its percentage of land owned by the public, and state officials are working to make sure that property does not burden local governments.
State- and federal-owned land offers opportunities for tourism, recreation and resource extraction such as mining. But in some counties, particularly in the North, the land also limits local tax revenue and development potential.
“In a county that is 50 percent state-owned and we manage it, they have a hard time standing up fire, police and schools because they don’t get full tax off that, though they get great recreational outdoor activity,” Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh said. “For them it’s very difficult to drive some long-term economic sustainability or community sustainability.”Continue reading →
LANSING —The state is offering $200,000 to help local agencies monitor water quality in inland lakes this summer.
Localities and nonprofit groups have until Feb. 28 to apply for Department of Environmental Quality grants to measure levels of E.coli — a bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, severe anemia or kidney failure — off inland beaches, according to Shannon Briggs, a program director in DEQ’sWater Resources Division.
Michigan is currently keeping watch on about 380 inland lakes, about half of the state’s total. Water quality data helps officials determine if a lake is safe for swimming. It is reported to the website Michigan Beach Guard, part of the DEQ site, and compiled in a statewide report.
State law gives the authority for monitoring and testing public beaches to local health departments and their partners, Briggs said.Continue reading →
LANSING– A dispute between the state groups representing counties and downtowns has erupted over the way tax money is spent.
Michigan Association of County officials say some special millage tax dollars that could be spent on senior citizens, veterans and other causes get diverted into a popular tax strategy for helping downtowns.
A five-bill package was recently introduced in the House of Representatives to improve the oversight and transparency of groups capturing this tax revenue. Cosponsors are Reps. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering; Lana Theis,R- Brighton; Amanda Price; R-Park Township; Pat Somerville R-New Boston; and David Mature, R- Vicksburg.
The issue is over Tax Increment Financing, called TIF for short.
“Downtowns support the bulk of economic development, so this is a powerful tool to provide a way for the county as a whole to give back to downtowns that sustain their communities,” said Kent Wood, director of government relations for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance. “And there’s not a lot of tools we’ve got left in the toolbox.” Continue reading →
LANSING – Michigan ranked ninth in a recent national survey assessing how well each state government buys stuff.
The report in Governing, a news organization that reports on state and local government, found that Michigan ranked first in performance measures and fourth in how well it administers contracts.
Those are good marks, according to Liz Farmer, author of the study on state procurement.
Government procurement is a process to maximize efficiency in large-scale transactions involving a public agency. It’s important that it’s done well because it’s how the government spends taxpayers’ money, Farmer said. Continue reading →
LANSING – Federal courts have dealt a double defeat to the state in job discrimination-related suits by former employees.
In one newly decided case, a judge in Detroit ruled that a legal secretary for the Unemployment Insurance Agency can pursue her allegation of a racially and sexually hostile workplace.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said Sonya Bradley, who is African American, presented enough evidence of harassment by supervisors and co-workers to let the claim against three white supervisors to proceed. Continue reading →
LANSING — Michigan communities might see more local roads turned to gravel in coming months, thanks to winter’s remaining grip.
The rough winter has given Michigan’s road funding concerns a violent push into statewide spotlight as discussion swirls at the Capitol. But road commissions across the state are eyeing the immediate impact that deeply rooted frost has on a local level.
County road commissions have increasingly taken up the practice of permanently or temporarily turning paved roads into gravel in recent years to deal with issues of low funding and poor road conditions, said Joe Pulver, Clinton County Road Commission managing director. Continue reading →