Holt Journal staff writer
Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Under the act, Snyder may appoint an emergency manager when a school district or township faces a severe financial crisis.
The law has sparked a large amount of discussion among Michigan residents, as it allows emergency managers to dismiss elected officials or, after preliminary steps, modify or dissolve collective bargaining contracts.
Snyder said that he believes this act will allow emergency managers to have more flexibility since they can take over before a local government is on the brink of bankruptcy.
However, the act was met with some controversy when it was signed into effect on Wednesday. Thousands of union protesters, among others, rallied inside and outside of the Capitol to protest the signing of the act and other bills.
Among them was student activist and president of Michigan State University Greenpeace Tabitha Skervin, who was there to show her disapproval of the act. She said that putting corporate managers in charge of local government can not work.
“I just feel like that’s wrong,” said Skervin. “Running something as a corporation just isn’t democratic. I think that what we saw yesterday was a call from people saying, ‘Hey! I don’t think this is the way our government should be run.'”
While some communities around Michigan may be in a deep enough financial crisis to warrant consideration for an emergency financial manager, Delhi Township Trustee Jan Hayhoe said that Delhi Township has nothing to fear.
“We in Delhi Township don’t feel this will affect us,” said Hayhoe. “We have always balanced our budgets and kept a positive amount in the general fund. Cities such as Pontiac, Benton Harbor and some schools such as Detroit Public Schools will probably be more affected.”
View Michigan cities and schools with financial issues in a larger map
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“Many of these organizations over the past several years have been very generous with their pensions for their employees, building up what is known as ‘legacy costs’,” Hayhoe said.
Jessica Gerring, who lives just outside of Holt, said that she feels it is a little unsettling to know government officials the township elected could be removed in an emergency financial situation.
“I just feel like the people making decisions for a school district or township should be the ones citizens of that area elected, and not someone who was appointed by the governor,” said Gerring. “It doesn’t seem democratic.”