Strange political agendas, thoughts, and ideas have been bandied about for years. The push to combine or even dissolve units of local government has gained momentum as states such as Michigan and Indiana are finding it hard to balance their budgets. However, to tie the local government in with state financial problems is not merely deceptive it is an attack on your rights and control of what happens in government.
Lets first dispelled the myth that local government causes some financial hardship on state government. Of the 21.64 mills I pay in taxes, a whopping 1 mil comes to my township. That means 95% of the taxes I pay in the form of a property tax does not go to my township. So why would anyone go for the smallest, least expensive portion of government to try and resolve a budget crisis?
Many people don’t know, but a portion of the state sales tax also comes to local governments. Currently 15% of the gross sales tax collections comes back to local government. This brings back about $450,000 a year into Kimball Township. Although a large number by itself, when compared to the state’s revenue from sales tax, this is really a small amount. So the reality that somehow the State of Michigan will correct its budget issues by eliminating, which has been discussed, township government is bizarre at best.
Where the pictures becomes abundantly more cloudy is discussion regarding elimination of local government and the strange absence of cities from the discussion. Odd that state representatives would support the elimination of townships as a cost saving measure, yet not have the same conversation regarding cities. The City of Marysville is well known for is exuberant tax rate in our area. Why not attack that form of government?
The answer to all of this is simple. Its about control. The township form of government gives its constituents an amazing power of influence and control over not only what happens with their tax dollars but also how much they pay in taxes. Take for example a recent situation in our township. A resident came to our board and recommended that we have township wide trash collection. Our board decided to have a public hearing on the matter to receive input from our residents. Several hundred residents attended the meeting, and most were opposed to the idea. There was little discussion from the board as we made the decision not to go in that direction. Try that at the state level!
I understand that both county government and state government will have public hearings. But how many people attend, or for that matter feel comfortable in attending those hearings? Our county recently had a hearing at 5:00pm. Can the average American Citizen even make a meeting at that time? The reality is that your voice can be heard at the local level far more than at the county or state level.
The residents of Kimball Township frequently call my cell phone. I converse with them, visit with them, meet with them, and have an ear for the things they have to say. Have you ever tried contacting a state or federal representative? I have, and because of my position talk with many of them from time to time. Prior to that, there have been many occasions in which I have contacted a government officials and haven’t even received one of their standard form letters. You will get no better communications than your local government official.
Ever looked at a local government budget? How about a county budget. You would be surprised at the memberships and subscriptions paid for by your tax dollars. But who do you questions about poor financial decisions at that level? Imagine the spending that goes on at the state level. The great thing about local budgets and spending, if you don’t like it come to a township board meeting. There you can express your concern, and often get answers.
The further government gets from you, the less benefit you receive. Here’s an example: The State of Michigan has pushed its office supply purchasing program for local governments. Their claim is that by “buying” into their program, you will save thousands of dollars on office supplies because of the purchasing power of the program. When I received the information on the program, my first task was to compare it to the prices we receive from our local office supply dealer. Not only did I have to pay a “membership” fee for the program, I would have to pay higher prices than my local office supply store. So much for the state saving me money.
The bottom line is this, the further the government gets from you, the less say you will have. The less say you have, the more potential for misuse of you tax dollars. The further the government gets from you, the less accountability there is for government, and the increased likelihood of further mismanagement of your tax dollars. Maybe what we really need is less federal government, less state government, and more local government.