U-M Study: Michigan Cities See Slow Improvement Since 2010


Hundreds of Michigan municipalities continue to struggle to meet their financial needs, but it’s better than it was three years ago, says a University of Michigan survey released this week.

The poll by U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy — conducted from April to June  — reports that 29 percent of jurisdictions say they are better off this year, while 29 percent say the opposite. This in an improvement from the poll’s results in 2010, when just 9 percent said they were better off, and 61 percent were worse off.

“We do see gradual improvement, but it is a slow process and it is going to take time for improvements across the state,” Tom Ivacko, program manager for the Ford School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, said in a statement.

The latest findings show that bigger cities are recovering faster than smaller ones. In cities with more than 30,000 residents, the percentage saying they are better able to meet their needs rose to 44 percent, compared to 36 percent in 2012. 

“It looks like these large jurisdictions are bellwethers for the local government fiscal health,” Ivacko said. “They led the way into the crisis in 2009, but since 2011 they have been leading the way out.”

Struggles remain as 48 percent of the cities say their property tax revenues continue to decline, and 30 percent expect their fiscal health to be worse a year from now.

“The lack of optimism is tied to their views on the economy and state revenue sharing,” Ivacko said. “Local leaders have told us that the system of funding local government is basically broken and won’t provide the revenue needed to maintain the services provided today.”

Part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series, the study sent surveys to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages, and townships in Michigan A total of 1,350 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 73 percent response rate.