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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"Bridging Challenges with Positive Solutions"

I attended the Michigan Local Government Management Association (MLGMA) Summer Workshop July 28-31, 2009 in Sault Ste. Marie. I was also part of the Summer Workshop Planning Committee that put this workshop together (with a lot of help from the Michigan Municipal League (MML)). As always, MLGMA and MML do a great job pulling together the resources needed to help move Michigan forward at the local government level.

It was a valuable experience, and I will be sharing more information from the workshop over the days ahead. Today, I want to share two related pieces of information: our state's financial situation and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG). These two pieces are related because the State of Michigan is in financial distress but energy efficiency may possibly help "bridge the challenge with positive solutions."

Every speaker at the workshop confirmed the financial distress at the State government level. The problem is a central focus for our elected officials in Lansing. I think they really want to solve the problem, but they have different views. Even with big cuts in spending, the State of Michigan has a large shortfall projected for this year and an even larger shortfall for next year. Unfortunately, this has a trickle down effect on every city and village in Michigan. We were told to expect a 10-20% reduction in "state revenue sharing." For Rogers City this could mean a loss of between $25,000 to $50,000 of revenue for this fiscal year, and more next year. If this happens, it will be very difficult for us to find cuts in expenses to off set this revenue cut. City staff will begin thinking about this problem at staff meeting on Wednesday.

One possible solution is to save money through energy efficiency and conservation. There may be grants available to help us save operational costs to heat and light the city. The grants are "no match," which means we could actually afford to do them. Because the City has a low fund balance now, we can not afford to do the traditional "dollar-for-dollar" grants. However, we may be able to do EECBGs if they, in fact, do not require a local "match." The application forms for these EECBGs have not been released yet, so we do not know for sure what they will require. However, EECBGs might help us save enough to off set some of the state cuts in revenue sharing.

Also, these EECBGs potentially could be used as examples of energy efficiency and conservation that could be used by commercial businesses and residential owners to save energy. The idea is to create an energy efficiency strategy that can be expanded to include the entire community. If you are interested in helping Rogers City become a "Green Community," please let me know.

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