Coming to your hometown: Fewer services

While there has been much talk in Lansing in recent weeks about reducing revenue -- again -- for local governments, the folks actually in charge of running public service on the city/township/village level are dealing with the consequences of previous reductions, caused either by a bad economy or state funding choices.

Tom Ivacko and the staff at U-M's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy gleaned a couple of relevant results form their most recent survey of local officials:

* "How bad are times for Michigan’s local governments? One way to gauge the local fiscal crisis is to look at plans for cutting the amount of services provided by our local jurisdictions. The 2011 MPPS fiscal health survey found that 21 percent of Michigan’s local governments plan to reduce the level of overall services they provide in the coming year.  However, that overall percentage is kept low by the large number of small jurisdictions in the state that tend to provide few services in the first place, and therefore don’t have many places to cut back.  When we look in more detail, we find that 50 percent of Michigan’s largest local jurisdictions plan to cut the amount of services they provide in the coming year. By jurisdiction type, 46 percent of counties, and 45 percent of our cities plan these cuts.

* "Another indicator of the local fiscal crisis looks at even more extreme actions: not just cutting back on the amount of services provided, but going further by completely eliminating one or more services entirely.  Overall, 8 percent of Michigan’s local governments took this more extreme step in the last year. But when drilling down into the data, we find that this includes nearly 22 percent of Michigan’s largest jurisdictions, as well as about 22 percent of Michigan’s county governments."

Chew on those last figures: More than 1 in 5 large local governments and counties have eliminated a service in response to the ongoing fiscal crisis. This is the part of the equation that the legislators in Lansing like to conveniently skip over when issuing their press releases and budget plans.

Pushing for tax cuts is fun, but how many state legislators campaigned last year before the voters on a pledge to help reduce their local public services? And if they didn't campaign on it, how can they claim they have a mandate from the voters to pursue such a policy?

Let the debate begin.

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