Streamlining Local Government Service Delivery in Lenawee County
January 2012
Report 375

Michigan’s structure of local government is characterized by a quilt of townships with cities and villages sprinkled among the townships. Because each of these local governments acts as an autonomous unit, there is a sense that this structure creates duplication and inefficiency.

As City of Detroit officials struggle to reduce the city government’s deficit and provide essential services, a key fiscal consideration concerns the city’s liability for future payments. These costs include legacy costs for unfunded pension and other post employment benefits (OPEBs) for city government employees; the annual cost of pension obligation certificates; the principal, interest, hedging and other costs associated with bonded debt; and other contractual obligations of the city.

Added to the problems with the structure of local government are the economic conditions in which Michigan businesses, residents and local governments are currently operating. The erosion of jobs, primarily in the manufacturing sector; an exodus of people and businesses to other states; and plummeting property values and tax revenues have made it difficult to operate in the private and public sectors.

The seemingly logical response to these issues is for state and local government policymakers to seek ways to streamline the delivery of local government services. Efforts to achieve this goal can take three forms: policymakers can (1) take action to consolidate the number of local governments; (2) pursue a city/county consolidation; or (3) use intergovernmental collaboration to seek efficiencies for individual services. In the context of Michigan’s economic malaise and scarce tax revenues, government leaders, civic leaders, residents, and others are asking how the provision of local government services might transform to continue to meet the needs of the communities.

This report develops a vision of the structure of local government in Lenawee County, Michigan, that will streamline the provision of local government services. It discusses the compelling reasons for consolidating government service provision, including discussion of the people and places in the county, identification of current service providers, reporting of the cost of providing services, and identification of duplication and overlap that exists in the current service provision model. It explores the consolidation alternatives available to the leaders of Lenawee County and identifies a path for change, identifying the functions and services for which consolidation of local government services would serve to minimize duplication and lead to efficiencies by capitalizing on economies of scale.

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