proposal A

a police squad car
Flickr user Scott Davidson/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Residents of Wayne, a small community about 25 miles west of Detroit, will see a public safety millage question on their Tuesday primary ballots.

It’s a slightly unusual one, though.

The question will ask Wayne residents whether they want to join a regional authority that funds public safety services — the South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority, or SMORSA.

Flickr user Michigan Municipal League/Flickr

These are trying times for cities in Michigan, thanks in large part to big cuts in state revenue sharing and real estate values that cratered during the economic meltdown.

On top of all that, Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment limits local municipalities' ability to collect taxes.

As a result, many communities say they're out of options. They can't cut any deeper and they can't raise the money needed to provide operations. 

Public finance expert Michael McGee has come up with a possible solution: a legal "toolbox" that could allow cities to band together and put up a millage to pay for essential services. 

Galien Township Schools

This week a small school district in southwest Michigan laid off all but four employees because of major budget problems. 122 students at Galien Township Schools will have to enroll at new schools next semester. Included in the layoffs were 10 teachers, 10 support staff, 4 bus drivers, and 2 kitchen workers. The only ones who remain are the superintendent, the business manager, a secretary and a custodian.

The Galien district consists mostly of farmland 3 miles away from the Michigan-Indiana border in Berrien County. The number of students there has gone down for several years. The school board closed the high school in 2004. Those students transferred to other districts. In January, kindergarteners through eighth graders will do the same.

“I’m sad for this community,” Superintendet Tim Allard said, “I’m sad for these employees who have been here so much longer than I have." Allard just came on as the district’s superintendent in September.