Williamston City Council hears update on microplastic reduction

Williamston City Council held its bi-monthly meeting on Oct. 14 to discuss management of microplastic pollution in local water, absentee ballots being on the rise in Williamston, and its search to fill the vacant spot on the board. 

When reached the audience participation portion of the agenda, executive director of the Ingham Conservation District, Michelle Beloskur, approached the podium. In the effort to reduce microplastics in the water, Beloskur is working with Smart Management of Microplastic Pollution in the Great Lakes to provide mesh laundry bags to Williamston residents and inform community officials on the effects of microplastic pollution. 

The community is a year into the three-year project and a new prototype of a sensor has just been created. The sensor will exist in the pipes and can detect how much microplastic and what kind is in the water. The goal is to have four sensors stationed in the city by next year, making Williamston one of the main hubs of the study.

Sarah Russell stands outside of the Mason Chamber of Commerces

Mason names new Chamber of Commerce executive director

Sarah Russell, who grew up in Mason, is the new executive director of the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce. Russell has degrees in entrepreneurship and small-business management and a certificate in counseling. A reception for outgoing director Doug Klein will be held Nov. 7.

Local governments applaud Legislature’s proposed revenue-sharing boost

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Proposed increases to Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommended budget for revenue sharing marks a welcome shift for cities, villages, townships and counties, which say they have not seen this part of their funding change for years despite great need for additional money. Despite numerous cuts elsewhere to Snyder’s budget, Republicans in the House and Senate want the numbers for revenue sharing to local governments to be higher. They have proposed increases in the overall revenue-sharing budget of 5 percent and 1 percent, respectively, which has been met with praise from Michigan associations of local government units. The revenue sharing program takes a portion of sales tax revenues collected by the Treasury and distributes those funds to local governments. The sales tax currently stands at 6 percent.

Michigan among states forced to deliver the most with the least

By BRIDGET BUSH
Capital News Service
LANSING– Michigan is one of 18 states required to provide the most state-mandated services with the least state funds, according to a recent national report. Michigan local governments are among the most economically burdened nationwide. Only Georgia and Montana didn’t feel similar budget pinches in 2016, according to the report by the National Association of Counties. “It’s important that people realize this is a problem all over — not just in our state,” said Michael Selden, director of member information services for the Michigan Townships Association. “Citizens want more and more, but local units have less and less.”
It’s hard to pinpoint where the problem began, Selden said.

Bill would decrease local government’s tax revenues

By RAY WILBUR
Capital News Service
LANSING — Local officials are concerned that a legislative attempt to clarify how charitable organizations are defined could cost them property tax revenues. The bill, introduced by Sen. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, would define charitable organizations in a way that exempts more of them from property tax. That may be good for them. But local units of government rely heavily on property tax revenues and this bill would decrease those revenues, said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs at the Michigan Association of Counties. The Senate Fiscal Agency says the bill would decrease property tax revenues by about $27.6 million across the state.

Tax break for veterans faces resistance from local governments

By CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING- A bill to increase the number of disabled veterans receiving property tax exemptions faces cautious resistance from local governments that would lose revenue if it passes . And representatives of some veterans groups sympathize with their position. The bill would broaden the exemption to include unmarried surviving spouses of veterans and residential or agricultural real property used as a homestead by the veteran or the surviving spouse. As it stands, even wealthy individuals qualify. Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, co-sponsor of the bill, said it shows veterans respect.

Local officials moan about reduced, late state payments

By CELESTE BOTT
Capital News Service
LANSING – The size and timelines of state payments to local governments is under fire as many counties, advocacy organizations and legislators are calling for more accountability in Lansing. At issue are state payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) to local governments, including school districts, instead of property taxes on land administered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Late and reduced payments are harming local governments and communities that feel the state already holds an advantage through the PILT system, critics say. According to Ben Bodkin, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC), PILT payments are much less than what the counties would have received if the state-owned property were on the tax rolls. Underfunding has prevented the state from making PILT payments in full since 2008, leaving local governments to compensate, he said.

Lawmakers want more local authority over ORVs

By ANJANA SCHROEDER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Northern Michigan local governments may soon be able to authorize off-road vehicle (ORV) regulations and ordinances. Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, said he is trying to make it easier for ORV riders to use the designated trail systems within the counties in northern Michigan. The proposal would allow local governments to adopt ordinances to permit ORV riders to avoid the long detours between designated ORV routes. Riders could either drive on shoulders of state trunk line highways or local governments could authorize connections on dislocated segments of ORV trails in certain northern roadways, including ones in Mason, Gladwin, Wexford and Crawford counties. Johnson’s bill would give the state Transportation Department 60 days to decide if local governments could authorize such ordinances.

Local officials fear final end of personal property tax

By ANJANA SCHROEDER
Capital News Service
LANSING – Local governments across northern Michigan would face more budget cuts because of a personal property tax proposal passed by the Senate and awaiting House action. The proposal would exempt businesses from taxes on personal property like machines, desks and supplies. Local governments rely on the personal property tax to finance public services. Josh Reid, who chairs the Gladwin County Board of Commissioners, said he is not confident that the state will make up the loss if the proposal becomes law. “We have zero confirmation there will be replacement revenue,” he said.