For Immediate Release:
July 17, 2013

Contact: Eric Lupher
734.542.8001

CRC Analyzes Proposed Merger of Saugatuck and Douglas

After performing an analysis commissioned by the City of Saugatuck and the City of the Village of Douglas, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has released its findings in a new report. The analysis describes to the elected officials and citizens of these communities how the merger, which is to be voted on at the November 2013 election, would affect the operations and financing of local government.

Douglas and Saugatuck are two small, adjoining cities on the banks of Lake Michigan. Their small sizes and proximity to each other has led the two cities to develop mutual interdependencies, with half the money spent for local government services funneled through inter-local agreements. The most costly services — police, fire, library, transit — are already provided across the jurisdictions. As a result, the proposed merger primarily would affect the provision of core governmental functions — city manager, treasurer, and clerk — and public works.

CRC’s analysis examines

  • How the proposed merger would affect planning and zoning;
  • The cities’ stewardship of the plentiful natural resources in the region;
  • The similarities in the city charters and ordinances;
  • The level of indebtedness of the two cities;
  • What would happen to the property owned by the cities;
  • The handling of public records;
  • The potential reduction in the number of municipal workers;
  • How merger would affect Douglas’ DDA and Saugatuck’s historic district;
  • The financing of some of the most costly and capital intensive services through inter-local agreements;
  • The potential affect of merger on road care, road funding, and street names; and
  • The fiscal impact of merger on the level of services provided and potential savings that could be generated by streamlining the governments’ operations.

CRC estimates that about $500,000 in savings can result if consolidation does occur. This is equal to 13.0 percent of the $3.6 million total expenditures for the two cities (not including the grant-funded $10 million capital expenditure Saugatuck made in 2012). The operating millage required to fund the reduced spending would decline from 13 mills in Saugatuck and 13.0818 mills in Douglas to 11.2 mills across the merged city. For a property valued at $200,000 ($100,000 in taxable value) in Douglas, the lower tax rate would result in about $192 a year in savings on city taxes. For an equally valued property in Saugatuck, the lower tax rate would result in about $184 a year in savings.

“The eyes of Michigan are on the Douglas and Saugatuck as the residents of these communities weigh the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed merger,” said Eric Lupher, CRC’s Director of Local Affairs. “CRC strongly feels that better information leads to better decision making. It is our hope that the residents of these communities will use the information in this report to consider the vote before them.”

CRC’s report is available at no cost on the Citizens Research Council’s website, www.crcmich.org.

Founded in 1916, CRC works to improve government in Michigan. The organization provides factual, unbiased, independent information concerning significant issues of state and local government organization, policy, and finance. By delivery of this information to policymakers and citizens, CRC aims to ensure sound and rational public policy formation in Michigan. For more information, visit www.crcmich.org.

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