A majority of Michigan local governments firm up financial practices

ANN ARBOR--A majority of Michigan jurisdictions, or 53 percent, report that their financial practices have become more formal during the last five years, as recessionary shortfalls have highlighted the pitfalls of lax policy.

A University of Michigan survey of top elected and appointed officials in the state’s 1,856 units of government found that the number rises to 72 percent when looking at jurisdictions with more than 30,000 residents.

The survey asked a series of questions about policies that are recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes professional management of governments.

Despite increasingly formal approaches, the survey also found that relatively few jurisdictions have adopted the range of financial policies recommended by the association.

"Written financial policies can help ensure long-term planning that reduces disruptions from revenue shortfalls, intermittent capital spending and turnover of elected and appointed officials," said Thomas Ivacko, administrator and program manager of the Ford School of Public Policy’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at CLOSUP, reports:

  • Nearly half (45 percent) of Michigan’s local governments reported having written policies for determining fees and charges, and 29 percent said they have formal policies on balanced budgets that go beyond what state laws require.
  • Only 13 percent of jurisdictions report having written policies regarding long-range planning for operating budgets or for appropriate debt levels.
  • Although most Michigan jurisdictions say they don’t have many of the association’s recommended formal written policies, many report that they do follow specific, locally developed practices regarding financial management.

The study, conducted April 8 to June 10, 2014, involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,344 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 72-percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points.

Related Link:

  • Survey: http://closup.umich.ed­u/michigan­-public-po­licy-surve­y/39/despi­te-increas­ingly-form­al-financi­al-managem­ent-relati­vely-few-m­ichigan-lo­cal-govern­ments-have­-adopted-r­ecommended­-policies/