“Relative to a couple of years ago, we’re doing much better,” Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis said.
McGinnis isn’t alone in that view, as the U-M poll points to a trend of easing fiscal stress for local governments in Michigan, though many are still suffering ongoing declines.
“Maybe it is a return to normalcy than what we’ve been used to,” McGinnis said.
The U-M study indicates that 33 percent of local governments report being somewhat or significantly less able to meet their fiscal needs this year, compared to 2011. Last year, nearly 50 percent reported such difficulty, and 61 percent did in 2010.
McGinnis said Grand Haven's tax base is growing; the Grand Landing development along U.S. 31 and Jackson Street was recently sold to a new developer; there have been more requests for industrial facility tax exemptions, indicating industries are expanding and creating jobs; and there have been more building permits issued.
“We’re finding it tougher to get a plumber,” he joked.
According to McGinnis, the local economy is starting to look like it was five years ago. He said there were better prospects for growth in 2007, and now things are nearing that same level.
Grand Haven isn’t the only local community to notice economic improvement.
Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger said he thought the city was better off this year than in 2011. He noted that property values went down less this year than they did in 2011, even if it was slight.
"The way City Council has prepared and adopted the budget, the city is going to be able to weather the economy," Bessinger said. "I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
Bessinger said he agrees with the U-M study's results, and said he thinks municipalities made adequate cuts a few years back to prepare for the future.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.