February 29, 2016
Erla’s Grocery Store
There will be an online auction Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at the Erla’s former grocery store on Church Street in Cass City. The online address of the auction is www.orbit.com and the phone number is (866) 672-4806. It is my understanding that everything will be auctioned off; all the equipment, the trucks, and other items. The building itself will not be auctioned off. We have not heard of a final agreement between the owners of the store and the owners of the site on M81 across from the Shell station. We will diligently continue to report any information about the grocery store.
Celebrating Tuscola’s Stars
Court Order is Secured in Stopping Enforcement of Public Act 269
Miller, Canfield, Paddock, & Stone, LLC has secured a court order stopping enforcement of the law barring objectively neutral speech by public officials. On February 5, 2016, United States District Court Judge John Corbett O’Mara issued an order granting a preliminary injunction and blocking enforcement of Public Act 57-3 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, which barred public officials from referencing any information about local ballot proposals 60 days prior to an election.
The Great Revenue Sharing Heist
The Michigan Municipal League has notified Cass City and other communities in the state that they have completed the study on how the State of Michigan has balanced its own budget on the backs of its municipal partners for over a decade. Every community is now suffering. The large urban centers are particularly hard-hit because they have greater legacy costs and they have developed all of the available land and lack any open land for new growth. The cuts from 2003 through 2014 topped $6 billion. How can this happen, you ask? First, a little history lesson. Municipal finance law in Michigan limits the ability of local governments to raise their own funds locally in an effort to streamline tax structure in Michigan. The local communities of-old forfeited the rights to levy certain taxes in return for a share of the state’s revenue. The law worked well for six decades, however, differing opinions on how to distribute the money resulted in changes to the formula in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the program was a huge success and the Michigan model was the envy of other states. There is a fact sheet included in the reading material in the back of the packet if you are interested in reading more about the program.
Then came the late 1990s, early 2000s. State government decided to dole-out huge tax breaks at a time when the economy went upside-down. The result was even greater pressure on the state to balance its own budget. Unable or unwilling to make the appropriate cuts to match the decrease in revenues, the state turned to its bottled revenue-sharing partnership with local government for revenue. When it comes to appropriating money in Michigan – no matter what the state says – all decisions are made on an annual basis in accordance with budget rules. Since it was a large line-item open, the budget made for an easy target. Governor John Engler proposed that revenue sharing to local units be cut then the dollars reallocated to cover the state shortfall in other parts of its own budget. This has continued through two more governors in several legislative sessions. In years when state finances were at their worst, the argument was that everyone had to share in the pain. In good budget years – like this one – state officials contend that muncipalities must build up their own rainy day fund rather than restore cuts to communities, while trumpeting their own financial stewardship.
In essence, municipalities are stuck between a hostile state government that yanks revenue and citizens that demand quality police departments, fire services, transportation, and more.
Something has to give. The state’s culpability in the Flint Water Crisis is drawing attention and intense international criticism. The state’s abandonment of Flint started two years ago; the same goes for places like Pontiac and Hamtramck. The result of this policy impacts public safety, quality of life, and economic competitiveness everywhere in Michigan. In the information section of this agenda, there is a complete study done by the Michigan Municipal League on revenue-sharing in Michigan. To us in Cass City, the policy means less dollars to provide quality services. Having said this, Cass City will continue to be a community with quality services for the public.
There was no DDA/EDC Meeting this month.
Chamber of Commerce Report
Since Rona Hillaker has retired, we have selected Ben Sweet to take her place. Ben is originally from New York and moved to the Village of Cass City in December, 2011. He recently obtained his Associate degree in Management and is now working towards his Bachelor’s degree in Management with a minor in Marketing. We are glad to have Ben aboard and are excited to see what he can offer the Village and the community.