By Rachel Jackson
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer
Gov. Rick Snyder presented his budget for the 2012 fiscal year on earlier this month, asking the state’s public officials to show what he called the “best practice” in the face of cuts to municipalities and jurisdictions, and encouraged localities to work together to face the brunt of public spending cuts.
The governor’s proposal raised eyebrows over a number of controversial plans, but especially over his proposed cuts regarding revenue sharing, the system of fund allocation for municipalities across the state. Snyder proposed a $100 million cut to the program for the 2012 fiscal year, which would force surrounding municipalities to combine public services to make ends meet.
“Unfortunately the cut to revenue sharing will put strain on a number of governments that are already facing insurmountable challenges,” DeWitt Township Manager Rodney Taylor said. “For some of these governments it may be that final straw.”
Taylor said that while he doesn’t agree with some of Snyder’s proposals, he does agree that something has to be done to stabilize Michigan’s economic future, which is why jurisdictions in Clinton County held a regionalism summit in October to discuss the prospect of merging local public services.
“The county is ahead of the game,” Bath Township Superintendent Troy Feltman said. “We’re working the way Michigan should work.”
Each jurisdiction within Clinton County was given a survey last month asking which areas could be further consolidated, based on the regionalism summit. Feltman said the results would likely be tabulated this week.
Depending on the severity of cuts and the necessity of the services, consolidation could occur in any level of public services, from parks and recreation to police and fire departments.
The trick is to find the right balance. Feltman said he expected the public to have a mixed reaction to any merging that the township proposed, especially over larger services such as police and fire departments, which locals tend to view with pride.
Any consolidation would likely result in what Feltman described as a “loss of control” over services at the local level, and steps should be taken cautiously to ensure that consolidation will benefit the township.
“If we can’t demonstrate that, we shouldn’t be doing it,” Feltman said.
Snyder faces the same criticism from municipalities as his budget is debated in the next few months and municipalities begin to feel the effects of revenue loss.
“Government has generally not had to go through this type of crisis,” Taylor said. “In the end, this will be good for government. At the end of the day, government is being forced to find more creative solutions to its operations, and this is good for all of us.”