Part I: Michigan county government mandated services and offices

This is a brief overview of mandated offices and services in Michigan county governments and links to the definitive paper on the topic.

The issue of “mandated services” comes up frequently in conversations about county governments in Michigan. This is often true at budget time, especially when spending cuts need to be made. Michigan State University Extension has an excellent paper on the topic, titled “Mandated Services and Offices in Michigan County Government”. The full paper is available on the website of the MSUE Center for Local Government Finance and Policy. The first version was written many years ago by Dr. Lynn Harvey and Professor Kenneth VerBurg. Later, it was updated by Extension Specialist Gary Taylor, an attorney, and the most recent edition was written by Dr. Eric Scorsone, the Director of the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, who is currently on leave to the Michigan Department of Treasury as Senior Deputy Treasurer.

The paper goes into detail about the various forms of mandates and their impact on the county budgeting process. It also reviews 14 court cases and many other administrative rules, orders and statutes relative to the issue of mandates. This article and part two, give a brief overview of the subject. For more information, be sure to download and read the entire paper.

The work of county governments in Michigan includes many types of services. These are commonly categorized into 1) services mandated by the Federal and State Constitutions, federal and state laws, and court cases, 2) non-mandated or discretionary, 3) mandated by agreements and 4) those that are not mandated, but are necessary. Many of the non-mandated or discretionary services, often called citizen mandates, exist because residents place a high value on them and lobby their local government boards to continue them.

There are many county functions that are mandated by the state of Michigan. Most of these mandates are in either the Constitution or other state laws. There are also departments that are mandated such as the clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, prosecutor and sheriff. It is important to note that those mandated departments also provide discretionary services. County Boards of Commissioners are given the authority to budget by law. This power to allocate dollars to various departments and activities of the county means that the board must also decide the relative importance of the various functions and allocate dollars accordingly.

In article two of this series on mandated services, court  cases and services other than those mandated by laws will be discussed in further detail.

Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy provide educational programs for government officials and citizens regarding many aspects of local and tribal governments in Michigan. Please contact the author at for more information. To contact an expert in your area on this or any topic, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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