A Potential Fix For Mich. Municipalities -- And The Controversy Surrounding It

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- As a panel of emergency financial managers from across the state, including Detroit Public Schools' embattled Robert Bobb, gathered in Lansing -- lawmakers at the Capitol continued to mull a significant cut to revenue sharing for local municipalities.

"We'll have to wait 'til next Thursday to see what the governor says, but you'll definitely see less revenue sharing," says state Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt.

He admits that with that forthcoming cut and and property tax revenues down across much of Michigan, local municipalities are in financial dire straits.

And he is touting an increasingly popular solution -- merging services across towns.

"I think what you're looking at is trying to get some of the efficiencies that come with less adminstration, less management overhead," Opsommer told News 10 Thursday.

But Opsommer argues there is a key hurdle in getting cities to consolidate -- a law, called the Urban Cooperation Act, which requires that towns that are merging, say, their police departments -- pay the higher of the two salaries.

"It actually increases the cost by taking away all of the efficiencies, and all of the savings of manpower or labor that could be realized," Opsommer argues.

But state Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, says the UCA protects employees' rights, and notes plenty of local towns across the state have consolidated services and saved money doing it.

"We must cut our costs, but I don't think this is the right approach," she said. "We must stand with our police and fire -- those men and women who put their lives on the line every day that they go to work."

And Byrum notes that she'll fight legislation, supported by Opsommer, that would reform the UCA to allow municipal governments more leverage in consolidating services.

Opsommer notes that legislation will come before the state House within the next couple of months, and is expected to pass both chambers.

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