Voters in various parts of Michigan have had the chance to dissolve a village before, but have never taken the final step.
Richland could become the first village to dis-incorporate if voters in the village and township approve a ballot proposal on May third. It would require a two-thirds vote. The President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan Eric Lupher joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to explain how villages work, and what happens if they are dissolved.
Lupher says the original idea of a village in Michigan was to provide more services for a growing area of a township. He says the plan was that a village would grow and eventually become a city. But Lupher says about 50 years ago that idea was abandoned.
If the village is dissolved, all property would go to the township. Lupher says the idea of dissolving a village is to reduce taxes. He says there would also likely be a reduction in services. Lupher says previous proposals included provisions to maintain at least some of those services, but it’s never been implemented because voters have never approved the dissolution of a village.
The Citizens Research Council worked with the Village of Onekama near Mainstee when a group there wanted to dissolve their village. Lupher says the proposal did not receive a majority, much less the super-majority needed to dis-incorporate the village. Asked why he thinks it didn’t pass, Lupher says it comes back to former U.S. House Speaker’s famous quote “All politics is local.” Lupher says it’s an emotional issue, and caused some strained relations in Onekama Township.
Lupher questions why a super-majority is needed to dissolve a village. He says merging two cities, or creating a village only requires a majority. Lupher says it’s not clear to him as a public policy observer why a super-majority is required for dissolving a village.
Michigan has a large number of local governments, and Lupher says that should be getting more attention. He says the structure of local government, duplication of services and taxation is an important issue. Lupher says the state has taken a “hands off” approach on consolidation. But he says the state has taken away some of the tax base from local governments. Lupher says the state should consider being more proactive in helping local governments work through those issues.