Michigan Local Government Fiscal Health Project
Launched in 2019, and working in partnership with the Michigan State University Extension Center for Local Government Finance & Policy and the Michigan Department of Treasury, CLOSUP’s Michigan Local Government Fiscal Health Project is aimed at developing a deeper understanding of the fiscal health and fiscal challenges of local governments in Michigan. This deeper understanding will contribute toward a proactive approach to local fiscal health in Michigan, promoting greater transparency and early detection of signs of fiscal stress.
The project will combine insights from local officials, reported through the Michigan Public Policy Survey, with insights from various sources of local government financial and economic data to explore research questions such as:
- How do local officials assess their fiscal health, and how are their assessments related to various aspects of fiscal health, including budget balancing, service delivery, infrastructure, and retiree pensions/healthcare?
- How do local officials’ assessments compare to measures of fiscal health derived from financial and economic data? To the extent that they disagree, what accounts for the difference?
- Are there systematic differences between governments that report higher levels of stress versus lower levels of stress?
Publications and Presentations
- Local Government Fiscal Health: Comparing Self-Assessments to Conventional Measures:
- 2019 September – Association for Budgeting & Financial Management Annual Conference – How do local government officials perceive fiscal health?
Lecturer in Public Policy
Stephanie Leiser is a lecturer at the Ford School. Her general area of interest is in public finance, budgeting, and financial management, and she has particular expertise in state and local tax policy, tax incentives for business, and other issues related to the taxation of business. She was previously a lecturer at the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, where she also earned her Ph.D. in 2014. Stephanie has taught courses in public budgeting and financial management, tax policy, nonprofit financial management, and microeconomics. A Ford School alum (MPP '05), she has also worked as a tax policy analyst for the Michigan legislature and continues to consult with leaders in Lansing on tax policy issues.
Local Government Fiscal Health in the MPPS
The Michigan Public Policy Survey has published numerous reports on a range of issues that impact local fiscal health
Annual fiscal health tracking
- Michigan local governments report first declines in fiscal health trend since 2010 (August 2016)
- Fiscal health rated relatively good for most jurisdictions, but improvements slow and decline continues for many (September 2015)
- Michigan local governments finally pass fiscal health tipping point overall, but one in four still report decline (October 2014)
- Michigan local government fiscal health continues gradual improvement, but smallest jurisdictions lagging (September 2013)
- Fiscal stress continues for hundreds of Michigan jurisdictions, but conditions trend in positive direction overall (September 2012)
- MPPS finds fiscal health continues to decline across the state, though some negative trends eased in 2011 (October 2011)
- Local governments struggle to cope with fiscal, service, and staffing pressures (August 2010)
- Local Government Fiscal and Economic Development Issues (October 2009)
- Despite sustained economic growth, Michigan local government fiscal health still lags (November 2018)
- Michigan local government officials report complex mix of improvement and decline in fiscal health, but with overall trend moving slowly upward (October 2017)
- More years of fiscal health tracking reports
View additional MPPS reports
System of funding local government
- Local officials say Michigan’s system of funding local government is broken, and seek State action to fix it (September 2016)
- Local leaders support reforming Michigan’s system of funding local government (January 2013)
Property tax appeals and exemptions
- Michigan local leaders say property tax appeals are common, disagree with dark stores assessing
- The impact of tax-exempt properties on Michigan local governments (March 2014)
Budget surplus vs. deficit
- Responding to budget surplus vs. deficit: the preferences of Michigan’s local leaders and citizens (December 2015)
- Local leaders say Michigan road funding needs major increase, but lack consensus on options that would raise the most revenue (February 2015)
Employee pay and benefits
- Michigan's local leaders concerned about retiree health care costs and their governments' ability to meet future obligations (October 2015)
- Michigan local government leaders' views on employee pay and benefits (January 2015)
- Local government leaders say most employees are not overpaid, though some benefits may be too generous (February 2011)
- Despite increasingly formal financial management, relatively few Michigan local governments have adopted recommended policies (December 2014)
Views on bankruptcy
- Michigan's local leaders generally support Detroit bankruptcy filing despite some concerns (February 2014)
Public sector unions
- Michigan local governments continue seeking, and receiving, union concessions (October 2013)
- Michigan’s local leaders satisfied with union negotiation (October 2012)
- Public sector unions in Michigan: their presence and impact according to local government leaders (August 2011)
Personal property tax reform
- Local leaders support eliminating Michigan’s Personal Property Tax if funds are replaced, but distrust state follow-through (November 2012)