upcoming League programs; Vote 411
Redistricting is the process by which congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn. These districts are redrawn every ten years, following the new census data. Redistricting typically takes place behind closed doors with districts drawn to benefit the political party in power at the same time. The problems with the system is that politicians draw their own voting maps to manipulate elections and keep their own party in power; a more common term for this is gerrymandering.
The vast majority of districts in Michigan aren't competitive. Ms. Karandjeff will talk about how the rules can be changed so that the process is fair, transparent and impartial. She will tell us how we can become involved in changing the process. The meeting is free and open to the public. Plan to join us.
Laura Grubaugh, Jerome Township Treasurer, pointed out that her township of about 5,000 residents gets 48% of their budget from state revenue sharing. This money is sent to the township every other month. Another 27% comes from tax collection and the rest from miscellaneous areas. This money pays for salaries and wages [which have stayed flat for a long time, since taxes and state revenue sharing have not increased], a water tower, roads, a fee to the city of Midland's Grace A. Dow Memorial Library so that Jerome Township citizens can use the library, a mortgage on the township building and a cemetery. The township also has to pay for training workers, elections, insurance and some miscellaneous expenses.
County Controller/Administrator Bridget Grandsen pointed out that Midland County is home to 84,000 residents who are spread over two cities, one village, 16 townships and 528 square miles. Money is needed for 252 full-time employees, 105 part-time and seasonal employees and the maintenance and upkeep of the county services building, the courthouse and law enforcement center, jail, juvenile care center, mosquito control building, Pinecrest Farms county infirmary and seven county parks. Main sources of money are from property taxes (53%), grants (16%), charges for services (18%), surpluses from prior years (6%), other revenue (6%), fines and permits (1%) and interests and rents (1%). The budget for 2017 is $30, 268,288. Grandsen pointed out that budget challenges include tax revenue regression, succession planning, recruiting and retaining talented people, technological advances, maintaining buildings and coping with legislative changes. 70% of the general fund dollars support programs required by statute or state constitutions, such as courts and government offices.
Midland City manager Jon Lynch oversees a consolidated $93.4 million budget. The city has about 42,000 people and covers 36 square miles. Most of Midland's money comes from property taxes; other sources are charges and sales, investment earnings, licenses and permits, intergovernmental funds, such as state sales tax and personal property taxes. The biggest overall expense is providing public safety, police, fire and emergency services and building inspection. The city provides parks, recycling, yard waste collection and public works. It also provides a library, a local television station, water and sewer services, a landfill, a golf course, a civic arena, Washington Woods and Riverside Place for Senior Citizens, and a Dial-a-Ride service.
All three units of government depend on revenue sharing for a share of their budget. Revenue sharing has always been #1 on the state finance-chopping block, causing great anxiety in local units. (Ms Grandsen, asked how the county gets money from the state, began by saying "We grovel!") 2016 has been the first year since 2004 that the revenue went up and this was by a very tiny amount; however, there was celebration that at least it was going in the right direction. All three panelists claimed they were trying to do as much as they had always done but now with fewer employees and less money.
Two big challenges our panelists agreed on: (1) unfunded mandates; and (2) getting citizens involved. Unfunded mandates are those items the state requires them to do but does not give them money to do it with. The other problem, getting citizens involved, is something the city and the county would like to see more of. The township, the city, and the county all have websites and are anxious for citizen involvement. There are also many boards and commissions that you can apply for. The city and county have difficulties filling all of these positions. [Note to all reading this: google your township or city, pull up their website and send them your thoughts on how they should spend the taxpayers money.]
The League of Women Voters of Michigan is studying state government financing and our local Midland Area League will meet to take a consensus on what to do with this financing on Friday, February 21. This meeting will be at the Gerstacker/United Way Building, Downtown Midland, at 10 a.m. Like all League meetings, it is an open meeting. Everyone is invited but only League members can participate in the census and be counted. Come to the meeting to learn; you will be welcome to join if you decide to participate in the consensus.
For study information, go to http://lwvmi.org/member/mem_studies.html
Nonpartisan information on candidates and ballot proposals for the 2016 local and general elections
State-specific voter registration requirements, election dates, and local polling addresses are also available on the site. You can also print out a Voter Registration application from the site.
To find your information, select Michigan as the state on the tab titled "On Your Ballot," and click on "GO." Enter the street, city and zip code in the "Personalized Ballot" box then follow the cues.