Scottville commission considering charter changes.

September 3, 2019

Scottville commission considering charter changes.

SCOTTVILLE — The Scottville City Commission is considering asking its residents to amend the city charter during the March 2020 election. In 2017, a committee was appointed to review the charter, which was adopted in 1959. A three-person committee reviewed several parts of the charter and made several suggestions on changes.

According to the Michigan Municipal League, Michigan cities and villages exist within a framework that is part of a greater system of state and federal law. The system is described in governing documents which fit into a hierarchy of importance and must be kept current. Constitutions, statutes and charters are primary examples of these documents.

Most Michigan cities are incorporated under the Home Rule City Act, a statute authorized by the Michigan Constitution in 1908 and then by Article VII, Section 22 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963. Scottville became a chartered village in 1889 and a chartered city in 1907.

The two forms of legally authorized changes of a charter are by revision or amendment. A charter revision is a change in the entire document while amendments apply to certain areas. A charter revision may be initiated by a resolution of 3/5 of the city commission or by petition signed by at least 5% of registered voters. The electorate must approve the charter revision. However, the electorate must also select a nine member charter commission to revise the charter, none of whom may be an elected or appointed city official or employe.

Charter amendments may be done during an election, as well, without the nine person commission.

Recently, the city commission met as a committee of the whole and prioritized proposed charter amendments. Those amendments included reducing the amount of voting wards/precincts from two to one, reducing the size of the city commission from seven to five, and increasing the spending limit of the city manager from $2,000 to $8,000, which is more in line with other municipalities.

On Monday, during its regular meeting, the commission learned that a recent change in state law allows the city the size of Scottville to reduce its voting precincts to one. However, City Attorney Tracy Thompson informed the commission that it may need to wait until a charter amendment is passed to eliminate the ward commissioner positions, making all commissioners at-large instead. Thompson said his concern is that there would be confusion from city voters and poll workers of which commissioner voters are supposed to vote for. Presently, the west side of Main Street is the first ward, represented by two commissioners, and the east side is the second ward, also represented by two commissioners. There are also three commissioners-at-large, elected by all city residents.

City Manager Courtney Magaluk stated that many municipalities in Michigan are allowed a centralized voting and therefore it may be possible to still have two separate ballots in one precinct.

The reduction of precincts will be a cost savings to the city, which currently must have redundant poll workers because of the two wards. One ward would mean less poll workers. Magaluk said new laws regarding last-minute registration and changes in absentee ballots will mean the city will have to budget more for elections if it continues to have two precincts.

Magaluk said she will research the issue more and will report back to the commission later in the month.

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