In latest CLOSUP survey, local leaders say fiscal stress is low, but see red flags

September 22, 2015

ANN ARBOR—About two-thirds of local governments in Michigan rate the levels of fiscal stress as relatively low in their jurisdictions today, while just 7 percent rate the stress as high.

While the latter percentage is low, the figure represents about 137 jurisdictions in high stress today, according to a survey by the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy.

"The Michigan Public Policy Survey finds continued gradual improvement in a number of fiscal health indicators for local governments," said Tom Ivacko, the center's administrator. "However, looking across the seven-year span of MPPS surveys reveals that numerous trends in fiscal improvement since the end of the Great Recession appear to be decelerating."

Other findings in the survey include:

  • For the first time, more local governments reported that property tax revenues increased (45 percent) rather than decreased (26 percent), compared to the previous fiscal year.
  • Most (64 percent) say their general fund balance is at about the right level, though 63 percent in the state's largest cities believe their balance is too low.
  • Many officials predict that their community will have good times financially in the coming year (46 percent). Fewer (36 percent) believe this will translate into improvements for their jurisdiction's fiscal health, while 19 percent believe their jurisdiction's fiscal health will decline.

Surveys were sent in April-June via hard copy and the Internet to elected and appointed officials in Michigan. A total of 1,328 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, a 72-percent response rate. The margin of error was 1.4 percent.

The Michigan Public Policy Survey is a program of state-wide surveys of local government leaders in Michigan. Read the full September 2015 report, "Fiscal health rated relatively good for most jurisdictions, but improvements slow and decline continues for many."