MTA Conference

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Thursday, January 30

Concurrent Educational Sessions
8 to 9:15 a.m.

Build a Climate-Resilient Township
Is your township ready for the next big storm? These are turbulent times for Michigan. The shifting global economy and statewide recession are forcing big changes for businesses and local governments. At the same time, climate change and variability is threatening agriculture, infrastructure and human health all across the state. Discuss how townships can prepare for the challenges ahead, adapt and thrive. Help your township become more resilient.
Speaker: Joe VanderMeulen, Ph.D., Executive Director, Land Information Access Association

Competitive Bidding Requirements
Examine bidding requirements for public work projects and best practices for purchasing equipment and supplies. Delve into the bidding process as well as what should be included in an advertisement for bids. Learn the components of a bidding and purchasing policy for township supplies, equipment and services. Walk away with tips on the disposal of township equipment or property no longer needed.
Speaker: Jim Beelen, MTA Member Information Services Liaison

Employment Decisions: Who’s The Boss?
Who has statutory authority to hire and fire township employees? Are the rules for charter townships different than those for general law townships? Can supervisors and managers be delegated authority to make personnel-related decisions by the township
board? Explore recent appellant court decisions that clarify rules for charter townships and arguably provide guidance to general law townships as well.
Speaker: Stephen Schultz, Attorney, Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC

Isn’t That a Conflict of Interest?
Discover what constitutes a conflict of interest, which issues constitute conflict and when to abstain from voting. Delve into ethical quandaries, compatibility of offices, fiduciary duty and more. Learn how to apply these circumstances to your own situation. 
Speaker: John Lohrstorfer, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Sparks, Lohrstorfer, Thall & Seeber, P.C.

MTA Policy Committee Forum
The MTA Policy Committee Forum provides an opportunity to review and comment on MTA’s proposed policy platform, which will be presented at the Association’s Annual Meeting on Friday, Jan. 31. This forum consists of MTA directors who serve on the MTA Legislative Conference and Resolutions Committee and chair individual policy committees. The panel will explain new proposed policy platform changes and take questions about the proposals. By discussing the proposed policy platform before the Annual Meeting, delegates can better understand the MTA Board’s position and address any concerns.
Speakers: Members of the MTA Board of Directors and MTA Government Relations Department

Playing Nice in the Sandbox
Maintaining your composure isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds when dealing with negativity at public meetings, negative comments from community members on blogs, emails or letters to the editor, or even among stressed-out staff or difficult board relations. Get the tools, mindset and even the language to use to stay a cut above when dealing with difficult situations and people. Get tips for keeping your community, and your sandbox, clean!
Speaker: Nancy Ohle, Managing Partner, HRPartner, LLC

Real Property Tax Foreclosure Process
Gain insight into the tax delinquency process, from foreclosure to auction, and learn tips on how to avoid potential county charge-backs. Join the discussion on programs to help people keep their homes, and learn more about land banking and whether it’s an option for your township.
Speaker: Eric Schertzing, Ingham County Treasurer

Right to Farm Act Update
Keep up-to-date with the Right to Farm Act. Get an explanation of the new Court of Appeals’ decisions and learn more about revised Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices. Review case studies and discuss practical application of the act to typical township situations.
Speaker: Catherine Kaufman, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Sparks, Lohrstorfer, Thall & Seeber, P.C.

Septic Discharges: Shouldering the Burden
What happens when private septic tanks fail? Gain insight into an important state Supreme Court ruling and why the burden falls on townships. Learn avenues for financing and discuss strategies for how to get it done.
Speakers: Michael Homier, Attorney, Foster Swift Collins & Smith, P.C.; and Steve Williams, Principal, Williams and Works

Concurrent Educational Sessions
11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Around the Capitol: Legislative Update (repeater)
January will begin the second half of the current legislative session and marks the beginning of an election year. Get the latest on recently enacted laws and other reform efforts that could impact your township, including personal property tax reform measures, off-road vehicle use changes, and clean-up on health care contribution requirements for public employees. Hear what impact the election year will have on pending issues, including transportation funding, election consolidation and the Freedom of Information Act, and what can be anticipated for the balance of the session.
MTA Government Relations Department Representative

Budgeting Elements
Examine the use of non-general fund funds and flagging of existing fund balance to address future capital needs. Join the discussion on how and when these funds should be used, and how to incorporate them into your budget process. This session will also cover general budgeting ideas and review the importance of Public Act 2.
Speaker: David Helisek, Partner, Plante Moran, PLLC

How Do You ‘Regulate’ What You Can’t Regulate?
Dig into land use and zoning issues specifically focusing on subject matter that is pre-empted from regulation by state or federal law. For example, oil and gas facilities, school and county buildings, mining operations, and wireless communication facilities all present regulatory issues for townships. So, how can townships deal with the legal issues and still address concerns of its residents? Explore pre-emption issues and discover how townships may regulate the un-regulatable. 
Speaker: Michael Homier, Attorney, Foster Swift Collins & Smith, P.C.

Intro to Grants
Are grants an option for your township? This basic introduction will help you explore whether your township should consider grants, the categories of grants that are available, and first steps to apply for grants. It is not a grant-writing class, but it will provide a good overview of the facts a board should know before considering grants as a funding alternative.
Speaker: Catherine Mullhaupt, MTA Director of Member Information Services

Lighten Up
No, this is not a personal weight loss commitment … instead, we will be sharing some much-needed stress management techniques along with quotes, stories and videos that are sure to have you lightening your load with laughter. You might ask, “Can I use valuable workshop time to laugh?” Just remember that laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain and conflict. It lightens your burdens, connects you to colleagues, and keeps you grounded, focused and alert. So lighten up!
Speaker: Nancy Ohle, Managing Partner, HRPartner, LLC

Off-road Vehicle Regulation
Learn more about the regulation of off-road vehicles (ORVs), from the basics—what exactly is an ORV? Does that include golf carts?—through the new legislation giving townships and counties the ability to allow (or block) use of ORVs on county roads, shoulders and highways. Free riding days will also be discussed.
Speaker: Cpl. John Morey, Conservation Officer, ORV & Snowmobile Education Coordinator, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division

Outpacing the Law: FOIA & OMA in the Digital Age
The law does not always keep pace with advancing technology. The Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are each a case in point. These statutes were originally adopted in 1976, when modern communication technologies (email, texting, Twitter and Skype) didn’t exist. As a result, officials are left with a good deal of uncertainty. Let us help you avoid the pitfalls of a potential OMA or FOIA violation through the use of digital/electronic technologies.
Speaker: Ronald Redick, Attorney, Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC

Policies Every Township Board Needs
State law gives township boards broad latitude in governing their townships. However, there are distinct policies and practices that separate successful townships from those that merely “get by” or are even dysfunctional. Learn best practices for townships to ensure your board focuses on what matters.
Speaker: Larry Merrill, MTA Executive Director

When You Are Not the Boss: Selling Your Ideas to a Skeptical Board
To achieve their goals, local officials must be able to promote consensus and work toward an outcome in the best interest of their community. Learn strategies for developing a plan, bringing it to the table and negotiating a solution all sides can support. Walk away with tips on mapping out your plan in a way that encourages “buy-in” amongst interested parties, along with techniques to encourage participation, negotiation and compromise.
Speaker: Cindy Davis, MTA Member Information Services Specialist

Why Would Anyone Want to Live in Your Township?
If you know someone who’s recently said, “I’ve lived here my whole life and didn’t even know it was here,” then this session is for you. Sometimes the most important parts of our community are those we pass by every day and take for granted. Learn how your community can better identify and leverage your local assets to attract tourism and create sense of place.
Speaker: Harry Burkholder, AICP, Community Planner II, Land Information Access Association

Concurrent Educational Sessions
1:30 to 2:45 p.m.

Addressing Wildfire Hazards  through Zoning
Learn more about Michigan’s wildfire risk, historical Michigan fires, and the most common causes of Michigan wildfires. Identify preventive steps for landowners as well as entire communities, including MSU Extension’s Sample Wildfire Hazard Zoning that offers local zoning officials four approaches to address wildfire mitigation and protection.
Speakers: Elaine Bush, MSU Extension Firewise Project Director; and Brad Neumann, AICP, MSU Extension Government & Public Policy Educator

Bank Reconciliation and Other Basic Internal Controls
Who reconciles the bank, and to what? How do we improve internal control, and reduce audit costs by implementing key controls over cash? Learn the answers and more in this session which includes a discussion of the general fund and other township operating funds, along with the property tax collection account.
Speaker: David Williamson, CPA, PSLZ

Dissecting the Affordable Care Act
This session repeats Thursday, from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Big changes impacting townships (and all employers!) are on the horizon due to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While some provisions of the law have already taken effect, many more will be implemented in the coming years. Explore changes the law creates, when are they rolling out, and how they affect townships.
Speaker: Cindy Davis, MTA Member Information Services Specialist 

Elections Update
Take advantage of an opportunity to hear from the state’s top election officials on the hot issues in Michigan elections. Learn what you can expect in 2014, and get an update on the upcoming election cycle, legislative changes, improvements to the Qualified Voter File, online learning and other training opportunities, and more. Bring your questions, and find out what changes lie ahead.
Speakers: Christopher M. Thomas, Director of Elections; Sally Williams, Election Liaison Division Director; and Tim Hanson, Program Development Division Director, Bureau of Elections, Michigan Department of State

Personal Property Tax … Reform?
Learn about the status of personal property tax reform, current implementation of the small-parcel exemption, future implementation of the exemption for new and existing eligible manufacturing personal property, and replacement funding for the loss in revenue.
Speaker: Rob Thall, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Sparks, Lohrstorfer, Thall & Seeber, P.C.

Rural EMS Issues: Local Responsibilities & Concerns
Explore the elements of offering emergency medical services (EMS) in rural areas, including identifying different levels of licensure, understanding Michigan EMS requirements and examining other current issues that impact local EMS.
Speaker: Representative from MIOSHA Consultation Education & Training Division

Township Regulation of the Waterfront & Riparian Issues
Michigan townships confront a number of issues pertaining to lakes, streams, rivers, groundwater and wetlands. Dive into topics including waterfront zoning regulations and standalone police power ordinances involving docks and boats, as well as environmental ordinances related to the waterfront. Get a primer on riparian or waterfront rights. Interaction between townships and state government, lake associations, watersheds and developers will also be discussed.
Speaker: Clifford Bloom, Attorney, Bloom Sluggett Morgan, P.C.

Turning Green Into Gold: Renewable Energy Efforts in Michigan
Renewable energy not only benefits our environment and helps strengthen energy security, it can also create jobs locally, improving our economy. Learn more about state efforts in renewable energy generated from wind, solar and biofuel technology. Current initiatives and economic development potential are also on the agenda.
Speaker: To be announced

Understanding the Assessing Process
Classifications, sales studies, ratios, ECFs, PREs and neighborhoods … what does it all mean? Gain an understanding of these terms and so much more—we’ll even show you how to read a property card! This informative session offers insight into the assessing process so you can share that knowledge with your constituents.
Speaker: Barbara Van Gelderen, MAAO, Supervisor/Assessor, Manlius Township (Allegan Co.)

Understanding Township Millage Questions
As townships grow and revenue sources become tighter, an understanding of voted millages can help township officials make the best use of this significant tool for financing much-needed programs and services. Learn mandated elements of a millage ballot question, tips for scheduling millage questions, and how far a township board can go to promote a ballot question.
Speaker: Catherine Mullhaupt, MTA Director of Member Information Services

Concurrent Educational Sessions
3:15 to 4:30 p.m.

Blight Elimination: Four Essential Tools
Get an overview of four important tools to address blight issues in your township. Three essential ordinances will be considered—dangerous buildings, blight and weed ordinances, as well as enrollment in the State Fire Insurance Withholding Program. Discover ways to determining how to utilize these tools to best address your township’s blight elimination needs. 
Speaker: Roxanne Seeber, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Sparks, Lohrstorfer, Thall & Seeber, P.C.

Broadband Planning in Your Community
Broadband access is key to generating economic activity. The benefits of broadband are countless, from expanding small business opportunities and attracting entrepreneurs to providing farmers with up-to-date weather information. Join the discussion on planning and expanding broadband access, adoption, and use in your community.
Speaker: Eric Frederick, Executive Director, Connect Michigan

Calculating Overtime for Firefighters
The Fair Labor Standards Act generally requires townships to pay firefighters no less than the minimum wage for each hour worked, as well as overtime compensation. Learn how firefighters are classified under the act, including which firefighters are exempt from the act and those subject to minimum wage, and special provisions applicable only in the public sector for calculating firefighter, police and some EMT overtime wages.
Speaker: Cindy Davis, MTA Member Information Services Specialist 

How State Policymakers Want to Change Local Governments
What should local governments be doing to adapt to the changing economy? What services should they be providing for their communities, and how should they be provided? Do lawmakers consider shared services to be preferable to services produced solely by a single local government entity? What relationships should exist between local units of government and regional agencies and the state? Hear from a panel of state legislators on changes policymakers would like to occur.
Speakers: Judy Allen, MTA Director of Government Affairs; and a panel of Michigan state legislators

No Child Left Inside: Reconnecting Children and Nature
Outdoor exploration and play is as much a part of early development as reading or writing. Discover ways your township can help rekindle the connection between Michigan’s children and nature. Learn how to develop programs and places that encourage outdoor exploration and education and create a sense of place.
Speaker: Ray Rustem, Co-Chair, Michigan No Child Left Inside Coalition, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Rural Healthcare in Crisis
Small, rural hospitals provide necessary, often life-saving, care to residents statewide. Rural communities have greater challenges and chronic underfunding for Medicare and Medicaid, and an increasing number of uninsured and underinsured residents. An aging and increasingly costly workforce is placing a strain on hospitals’ ability to continue providing community-based services. Learn strategies to partner with caregivers and develop solutions to assure continued access to local care services.
Speaker: Laura Appel, Vice President, Federal Policy & Advocacy, Michigan Health & Hospital Association

Social Media Pitfalls & Policies
This dynamic and interactive session is designed to help you create social media policies to regulate online activity, provide smart practices for posting online content, and protect your township from the risks of harmful social media comments. We’ll explore the risks of reputation and background checking of current and prospective employees, and provide tips on how officials can protect themselves from attacks on hiring, firing and discipline decisions based on their review of social media information.
Speakers: Stacy Belisle, Attorney, and Thomas McGraw, Attorney & President, McGraw Morris P.C.

Special Assessments: What You Should Know
What are special assessments? How do they differ from general property taxes? Review the procedure involved in establishing special assessments. Explore principles to be applied in establishing a special assessment district and in determining individual special assessments within the district.
Speaker: Kenneth Sparks, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Sparks, Lohrstorfer, Thall & Seeber, P.C.

What Happens at a Board of Review?
March, July and December boards of review—why three? How does the board look at property tax appeals? What exemptions does it review? The board of review is the board that understands, reviews and amends the property value set by the assessor. Learn what process the board follows and what steps it takes to review exemption applications. The poverty exemption asset test set by
the township board will also be discussed.
Speaker: Barbara Van Gelderen, MAAO, Supervisor/Assessor, Manlius Township (Allegan Co.)

This page last updated on 10/8/2013.