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Why communities like Laurium Village are struggling financially

Great places make for a strong economy, and the research supports that contention. By employing community-based placemaking strategies, we strengthen both our economic and social future. The Michigan Municipal League is a non-profit association that serves the state’s cities and villages. The League believes that at the heart of great places are strong cities and villages.

In Michigan we have failed to invest in this vital resource.

As a resident of Michigan, it is important to understand how your local government receives funding and the impact that funding has on service levels. In Michigan, we have built a tax system that is broken and have set spending priorities that simply do not direct dollars where they can be the most impactful for residents of the State of Michigan.

It is this broken system that has caused many Michigan cities and communities throughout the state, to struggle financially and they will continue to suffer unless changes are made. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has amplified this the disparities that exist. Ask yourself what governmental services you value or use the most. Is it a responsive police force or great local parks and recreation opportunities? Maybe it’s a great downtown, or a strong fire department, getting your streets snow plowed in a timely fashion, or some other local service that you enjoy and appreciate.

Unfortunately, in Michigan, the state has diverted dollars away from local services to shore up the state’s bureaucracy. Since 2002, that diversion has totaled over $9 billion.

The small Upper Peninsula community of Laurium Village (population 1,977) is no exception. Laurium Village is seeking a 2.5 millage RENEWAL over 5 years to be used for DPW equipment purchases or major upgrading in the Tuesday August 3, 2021 election. The millage would generate about $64,000 a year and would help the Village replace an aging equipment fleet and keep a strong snow removal service. Laurium experienced more than $2 million in lost revenue sharing dollars it was entitled to from the state since 2002. Like Laurium, communities throughout the state have been going to voters to get financial assistance as the economic support from the state has continually diminished.

After years of working within the existing paradigms, the Michigan Municipal League is undertaking a major legislative and policy push that is outlined on the website saveMIcity.org. This initiative is aimed at reforming municipal finance in Michigan to encourage renewed investment in our communities. This is intended to be an examination of how we can do things differently in Michigan to assure that local government can’t just survive, but can thrive. To that end, the League is developing policy recommendations around three themes: Cost Containment, Revenue Enhancement, and Structure of Government.

They are taking this approach to break away from the historically limiting tactic of incremental change within the context of where we are today. We need new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold action to create a new future for communities around Michigan. You can join the conversation and this saveMIcity effort here:http://savemicity.org/join/.

In the meantime, our communities like Laurium Village will continue to struggle and seek help from their local residents and voters. Residents and voters are encouraged to call the Village Offices at 906-337-1600 or stop in and review the Village’s finances. All financial data is available, the books are open as always, and any questions may be directed to me, Edward M. Vertin, Village Administrator and CFO.

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