Flint Fiscal Playbook: An Assessment of the Emergency Manager Years (2011-2015)

This case study of Flint explores the economic and fiscal trends that led to the state takeover via an emergency financial manager in November 2011 and to analyzes the impact of the emergency manager policy on the city’s fiscal health.

The city of Flint, Michigan, has experienced a variety of fiscal difficulties since the early 2000s. In 2002, an emergency financial manager was appointed for the city under Public Act 72 of 1990 and was in place until 2004. Unfortunately, the reforms and changes made at that time only lasted for a few years before fiscal problems re-emerged in Flint (see MSU Extension white paper Long-Term Crisis and Systemic Failure: Taking the Fiscal Stress of America’s Older Cities Seriously). By 2011, a second wave of emergency managers would be named to run the city under two newer laws (including PA 4 of 2011 and PA 436 of 2012). These emergency managers were removed from the city, restoring home rule in April 2015. The key question: Can Flint avoid the problems that have plagued it for the last 15 years without being placed under state control for the third time? Before answering that question, we must understand the reforms and changes that have occurred in the city since a fiscal emergency was declared in 2011. The objectives of this case study of Flint, Michigan, are to understand the economic and fiscal trends that led to the state takeover via an emergency financial manager in November 2011 and to analyze the impact of the emergency manager policy on the city’s fiscal health. It updates trends presented in a previous case study on fiscal stress in Flint,3 provides additional detail regarding the policy changes that emergency managers have made, and examines the impacts of those changes.

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