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Munetrix Releases List of Safest Cities in Michigan

Data Provided by Michigan State Police and U.S. Census Bureau for 2019

Munetrix, a data analytics solutions provider serving municipalities and public school districts nationwide, has again released its list of the 10 safest cities in Michigan, according to the company’s analysis of publicly available data provided by Michigan State Police and the U.S. Census Bureau for 2019, the most recent year for which crime data is available.

As it has in the past, the just released Munetrix list looks at total crime data for Michigan communities of more than 50,000 in population. Based on the numbers of total crimes committed in Michigan’s cities, relative to each city’s total population, Michigan’s top-ten safest cities are:

  1. Rochester Hills
  2. Farmington Hills
  3. Sterling Heights
  4. Novi
  5. Royal Oak
  6. Ann Arbor
  7. Troy
  8. Livonia
  9. St. Clair Shores
  10. Dearborn Heights

“As we analyzed the data, we discovered an interesting and encouraging trend at the macro level, also represented fairly consistently from city to city,” said Bob Kittle, President of Munetrix. “If you look at the three-year trend data dating back to 2017, the data reveal a trending decrease in total crimes overall—communities statewide appear to have been getting safer, in terms of the data we have available, which is a pleasant byproduct of this study. 

“Local city governments and public safety professionals in our state should be proud of what the data suggest, and take heart that their hard work and efforts toward safer communities appear to be paying off,” he added.

In Michigan, there are 1,856 local units of government: 83 counties, 1,240 townships, 278 cities and 255 villages. All in, there were 657,166 total offenses across the state in 2019 according to data released by the Michigan State Police in its annual crime statistics report. Munetrix cross references this crime data with population data made available by the U.S. Census Bureau. With 9.99 million residents in Michigan in 2019, there were 65.7 total crimes (offenses) per thousand people.

Total crime numbers include everything from murder, rape and assault to white collar crimes, Minors in Possession (MIP), and petty thefts. Total crimes encompass four categories: 

  • Crimes against people
  • Crimes against property
  • Crimes against society
  • Other crimes

Here’s how the top-10 safest cities in Michigan rank, in terms of total crimes relative to their total populations:

Where Does Your City Rank?

To find out where your city ranks on this year’s list, or to get access to the complete list, please contact us and submit a request.

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, among the nation’s largest aggregators of municipal and school district data, promotes municipal wellness and sustainability through its cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications. In partnering with Munetrix, municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, academic achievement metrics, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions. Learn more at www.munetrix.com.

Education, Municipal, News, Opinion

Munetrix Offers New COVID-19 Dashboard to Michigan Municipalities and School Districts at No Cost

Company Partners with Bloomfield Hills Schools and the Metro Bureau to Develop and Distribute Dashboard Statewide

Munetrix, in partnership with Bloomfield Hills Schools, has developed and launched a new COVID-19 dashboard and is making the dynamic dashboard available to any municipality, county or school district that wishes to embed it on its own website, at no cost to that government entity. In addition, Munetrix has partnered with the Metro Bureau to distribute dashboard embed codes to its member organizations across the state of Michigan.

First deployed on the Bloomfield Hills Schools homepage, the COVID-19 dashboard was developed initially to address the desire of Bloomfield Hills Schools administrators to provide clear communication regarding the school district’s readiness to return to face-to-face learning to parents in a way that would be as easy to understand and as readily updated as possible. In doing so, district officials approached Munetrix to develop technology that would source data from state of Michigan’s coronavirus case data and display relevant metrics to provide clear indicators as to the most current moving averages of new cases per 100,000 population, sortable by county, as well as to display each county’s rolling percent-positive data.

The dynamic dashboard draws state data that is both updated (with new cases) and refreshed (updating prior case data) daily, giving district parents the most accurate, timely and geographically relevant data available.

The two data visualizations provided on the dashboard are intended to give parents and community members an instantly intuitive snapshot regarding a given district’s readiness to return to face-to-face learning or its risk level of regressing to all-virtual learning environments using a color-coded graphic representation of moments in time, dating back to March 1, 2020. The system utilizes the Harvard Global Health Institute Model developed by Dr. Ashish Jha and others to create standards for risk factors and thresholds by which a school district can establish triggers for moving from one phase of risk tolerance to another. For example, the Bloomfield Hills Schools parameters dictate that the county remain at least 21 consecutive days in a given risk level before the district is eligible to enact predetermined protocols for moving to a next phase of learning modality.

Leveraging the standards established by the Harvard Global Health Institute Model, Munetrix displays risk ranges in the conventional red-orange-yellow-green convention, making the data intuitively accessible and visually clear, educating parents, children, district personnel and the community at large as to a district’s current state of return readiness at any given time.

Making Difficult Decisions Easy to Understand

Not only does this accessible dashboard allow for quicker, data-based decision making, it is a tool that serves to provide transparency and information to parents during a time when uncertainty and anxiety are heightened, making such information accessible on-demand, 24/7.

“We’ve heard of parents who watch the numbers on our dashboard like you might watch the stock market—three times a day!” said Patrick Watson, Superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools. “It also gives parents the information when and how they want it, no longer relying on answered phone calls and returned emails that may take some time to address,” he added. “The number of phone calls and emails into the office, with people looking for updates and information, has dramatically reduced, allowing our staff to focus their energy and resources on optimizing our learning environments, both virtual and in-person.”

“As a data visualization company, we continue to consider it our duty to do whatever our technology allows to deliver easy-to-understand, actionable intelligence to those who need it, and to make it simple for anyone to display, use and understand,” said Buzz Brown, Vice President of Customer Engagement and Chief Data Officer with Munetrix. “There has never been a more urgent time for accurate and timely information than during this pandemic, especially given how it’s affected our schools, educators, administrators, families and learners.”

Melissa Baker, Executive Director of the Metro Bureau, immediately recognized the value that this new dashboard provides to school districts and their constituents, offering to facilitate the distribution of free embed codes provided by Munetrix to its membership. “This is such an incredible value-add to our district members,” she said. “People are craving accurate, timely and understandable data these days, and our members are committed to providing it. Anything that makes this easier on everyone is something we as an organization are committed to broadly distributing.” 

Munetrix and the Metro Bureau receive requests for embed codes daily, with dashboards now being displayed on several district home pages across the state…east and west, north and south. 

Munetrix will provide a copy-and-paste embed code at no cost to any school district or government entity that would like to display the dashboard on its own website. Simply contact Munetrix to submit a request, or Metro Bureau members can complete this form to request a code. 

To see how this dashboard is being deployed by local school districts to make informed decisions about learning environments and communicate transparently with parents and the community in real time, watch the story that Local 4 Newscasters shared with their viewers. 

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, among the nation’s largest aggregators of municipal and school district data, promotes municipal wellness and sustainability through its cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications. In partnering with Munetrix, municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, academic achievement metrics, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions. Learn more at www.munetrix.com.

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Press Releases

Munetrix Provides Live, Interactive Map of Coronavirus Cases to Any Government Agency at No Cost

Free Embed Code Allows Governments to Provide Visualized Map for Any Website

Munetrix, a data analytics solutions provider serving municipalities and public school districts, has developed and launched a visualized map that renders live coronavirus cases data by county, and is making the map available to any municipality, county or government agency that wishes to embed it on its own website.

The Michigan Association of Counties was the first such organization to embed the map on its home page, and since then, more than ten others have embedded the map, including regional councils of government, counties, cities and more, representing more than 5,000 cumulative user views of the map in total as of April 13th.

The interactive map visualizes various data in a live, interactive and scalable manner, with various ways to render the most recently reported government data, including the number of cases, the number of deaths, as well as cases and deaths per 100,000 population, which is sortable by county, council of government and other geographic criteria, as set by the user.

“Access to updated, actionable information is critical right now, both for governments and the constituents they serve,” said Bob Kittle, President and Chief Executive Officer of Munetrix. “It’s vital that the data be visualized, easily understood and widely accessible, as leaders, administrators, health departments and the general public alike make critical and, oftentimes, life-or-death decisions during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“We felt, as a data visualization company, it was our duty to do whatever our technology would allow to deliver that intelligence to those who need it, and to make it easy for anyone to display, use and understand,” he added.

Munetrix will provide a copy-and-paste embed code at no cost to any agency or government entity that would like to display the map on its own website. Simply contact Munetrix or the Michigan Association of Counties to submit a request.

About Munetrix

Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Munetrix, among the nation’s largest aggregators of municipal and school district data, promotes municipal wellness and sustainability through its cloud-based data management tools and proprietary performance management applications. In partnering with Munetrix, municipalities and school districts are able to manage their data and access cost-effective products and advisory services to make meaningful and reliable budgets, financial projections, trend reports and better-informed forward-looking decisions.


News

As Michigan’s K-12 enrollment declines, count day grows in importance; first count day of the school year is Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Auburn Hills, Mich. –August 27,  2019 – The term, “count day” which is Wednesday October 2, 2019, is a familiar one to both Michigan educators and the parents who want their child counted, according to Buzz Brown, co-founder and Vice President of Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts. Brown says the familiar term is taking on increased significance as Michigan’s K-12 population declines.

“Students in Michigan school districts and charter schools are counted many other dates besides the first official count day in October,” Brown said. ‘There are actually four official count days each school year, but the October date is the standout because it’s first. From a percentage perspective 90% of district students are accounted for in October and 10% are accounted for in January.”

Most schools only count on count day because of the extra paperwork and reporting requirements for counting students after that date – but that can be a costly mistake, Brown cautions. That’s because declining enrollment and the competitive race to attract children to neighboring school districts, charter schools and private schools are collectively slicing into a shrinking pie.

“One of the few growing districts in SE Michigan lost $1M in state funding last year when 120 children failed to be counted for unknown reasons, yet given their growth rates, this district was able to absorb the cost more easily than others – but it still hurt,” Brown said.  “Most Michigan districts are contracting and fewer students mean fewer dollars.”

For those who miss count day, there is some leniency. Schools have 10 days after count day to count a child that has an unexcused absence, 30 days if the absence is excused and 45 days if the student is suspended. The challenge to the districts, regardless of the number counted, is that they always start the school year in Michigan before the state budget is decided, leaving some schools to borrow money until state aid is released.

“The timeframe of the state budget for education is a hot topic each fall. Compared to that, getting students to be counted on count day is a much easier task,” Brown said. “As some school districts will attest. a pizza party and other incentives to lure students to school that day also helps.”

Additional information on  school count day and funding can be found at the State of Michigan website.

News

And then there were none…cities and schools must prepare for silver tsunami of public sector retirements as next gen college students select other careers

Auburn Hills, Mich. –September X, 2019 –A silver tsunami of retirements is anticipated in schools and municipalities over the next several years; yet, as college students head back to college this month, only an estimated 5% are considering a career in the public sector. Further, a 2019 survey found the number of students graduating with a master’s degree in public policy and entering careers in federal, state and local government dropped 15% from 2011 to 2017. These statistics should have local government unit leaders on edge, according to Bob Kittle, president of Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts.

“Finance directors, assessors and administrators are just an example of positions already in short supply. Think of where we’ll be when those who understand complex water and sewer systems leave,” Kittle said. “And those technical positions lean more toward skilled trades rather than traditional four-year college grads, and the shortage of skilled trades has already been well established.”

A 2016 report from Pew noted that 50% of state and 52% of local government employees were between the ages of 45 and 64 in 2013; but Kittle says administrators at the local level can be reticent to share information on their own local unit’s expected retirement wave.

“I’m regularly on the speaker’s circuit discussing data driven decision making and succession planning.  When I ask for a show of hands as to how many in the audience will be retiring in the next five years, typically # hands go up,” Kittle said. “This supports the data we have in our platform that tracks employees by age range in cities and schools, but when we ask our customers outright for data on planned staff retirements over the next five years, there is definitely a reluctance to provide the information.”

Kittle says the hesitation can be that certain districts or cities don’t run reports on the data or track it well enough. That’s why Munetrix has a tool with its platform that makes tracking easier.

“We are really heading toward a crisis situation in the public sector in terms of talent and seniority,” Kittle said. “The Munetrix app is a tool to help support succession planning and institutional knowledge preservation, and to increase the portability of key jobs within the local unit, but we still need to raise awareness of the option for career changers and young adults to pursue public sector opportunities.”

For their part, the company established Munetrix University in 2013 to provide paid internships in data science to college students. The company has had 26 interns since it began the program in 2013.  Additionally, Munetrix announced this month a new scholarship program through the Michigan Government Finance Officials Association and (name of school association) that it would offer five  $1,000 scholarships to college students who plan to pursue a career in local government. Students may apply for the scholarship through (add website links.)

Education, Municipal, News, Opinion

Cheers to a successful millage passage!

By: Bob Kittle

It was announced at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference in May 2019 that a coalition of education advocates is aiming for a Wayne County millage to support after-school programs. If supported, the county-wide proposal would be on the Wayne County ballot in 2020. While this effort may be worthwhile, it is certain to be a challenge, first because it’s a county-wide vote, but also because gaining support for any millage proposal can be difficult – as almost any city or school district can attest. Having accurate and timely data can help build a strong case for millage requests and lessen the handwringing for anxious policymakers at the same time.

Munetrix understands the importance of data in community decision making. Increased demands for transparency make it clear that constituents want confidence that every penny is spent wisely. When current dollars aren’t enough to support operations or a new community initiative, a strong case can be made for additional funding by comparing how similar communities pay for equivalent services. You can also respond to naysayers with data reflecting that proposed millage rates aren’t unprecedented or out of line using relevant comparable analysis.

Citizens expect data to be accessible and will use it to better understand their community’s use of taxpayer funds. While preparing for your next city or school (or, in the case of Wayne County, after-school) millage, use data in your favor.  

Munetrix makes government data easy. If you need assistance with your next millage proposal, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Municipal, News, Opinion

Don’t believe everything you read. But believe this. Many Municipalities are Starving.

By: Bob Kittle

The headline of this March 21, 2019 post, Property Taxes Up $638 Million In 2018, by Michigan Capitol Confidential is eye-catching—and surely stoked the fire of those who believe they pay too much in property taxes—but let’s not let the facts get in the way.

While Michigan property tax collections may be up for the sixth consecutive year, it must be considered that the drop from 2008–2012 was so severe that the increases still haven’t caught up to pre-recession levels. That’s an important piece of information missing from the article, and is caused by the limitations of 1978’s Headlee Tax Amendment to the State’s Constitution, then followed up by 1994’s Proposal A.

To make this easier to understand, I will use an analogy with our retirement savings plans and homes. During the recession, most of us saw a 40–50% drop in the value of our retirement savings, only to see it storm back and exceed where we were initially—if we were patient. Same with housing values. Property owners saw their home values cut in half, and subsequently watched as they stormed back from 2012 to today. In most cases, our property is now worth more than it was worth pre-recession.

But local units of government in Michigan don’t see that appreciation because they are limited to a taxable value increase of CPI or 5% per year, whichever is lower. CPI didn’t exceed 2% until 2017 – so while our 401Ks and home values were rebounding at compounding double digit rates, municipalities had to watch as everybody else got well, but they were (are) handcuffed. In Auburn Hills, where I am a councilperson, our Total Taxable Value is still down $1B from its 2007 level, meaning we must operate on nearly $1M less in property tax revenue when it comes to paying our police and fire personnel, fixing roads and generally running the government.

On top of that, the State fixed their budget by pulling much needed sales tax revenue from local governments to fix their structural deficit. The last straw is that IF a community sees tax increases on certain properties exceed the constitutional limits, the rest of the city’s properties must be reduced by the corresponding value to make sure, on a city-wide basis, the total taxable value doesn’t exceed the allowable limit. The laws never considered a market crash!

Look, Munetrix is in the municipal data business, so we understand the role of data, especially in communicating to constituents. What we don’t like is half-truths, and appreciate when journalists provide balanced stories.

At the end of the day, many communities are cash-strapped and starving, but mostly not by their own actions.

News

Munetrix contribution to Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund reflects solidarity with the local units of government it serves

Auburn Hills, Mich. – March 21, 2019 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, showed its support for Escanaba and Michigan’s so-called Dark Store legislation, with a recent donation of $4,100.

The donation follows Munetrix September 2018 pledge to donate 10% of its subscription service price for each new Michigan city, village, township or county customer in the month of September to the Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund. Donations per governmental unit ranged from $500 to $1,500 depending on the subscription category. 

A vexing national issue for local governments and school districts, SB 1025 and HB 6049 were introduced in Michigan in May 2018 in response to Michigan Tax Tribunal’s application of a tax loophole that assessed the value of fully functioning big box stores as if they were empty (“dark”).  Both bills were re-introduced with bi-partisan support in January 2019 and are awaiting action

The loophole was first applied to a Menards store in Escanaba in 2014, but grew to national pharmacies, chain stores and fast food restaurants as retailers used it as a precedent to reduce their own property tax bills. The cumulative result has been a significant reduction in local tax revenues, which creates a challenge nationally for already struggling communities striving to deliver quality services in an affordable manner. 

The money donated by Munetrix and others, including municipalities and individuals, is helping defray the legal costs incurred by the City of Escanaba as it awaits a re-trial before the Michigan Tax Tribunal beginning May 13.

“Serving more than 300 Michigan municipalities and school districts, Munetrix gets in the trenches with our customers to help build and support fiscally healthy governmental units throughout Michigan. This donation falls right in line with that type of support and shows our commitment to their mission,” Munetrix President Bob Kittle said.

News

Munetrix contribution to Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund reflects solidarity with the local units of government it serves

Auburn Hills, Mich. – March 20, 2019 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, showed its support for Escanaba and Michigan’s so-called Dark Store legislation, with a recent donation of $4,100. 

The donation follows Munetrix September 2018 pledge to donate 10% of its subscription service price for each new Michigan city, village, township or county customer in the month of September to the Dark Store Legislation Defense Fund. Donations per governmental unit ranged from $500 to $1,500 depending on the subscription category. 

A vexing national issue for local governments and school districts, SB 1025 and HB 6049 were introduced in Michigan in May 2018 in response to Michigan Tax Tribunal’s application of a tax loophole that assessed the value of fully functioning big box stores as if they were empty (“dark”). Both bills were re-introduced with bi-partisan support in January 2019 and are awaiting action. 

The loophole was first applied to a Menards store in Escanaba in 2014, but grew to national pharmacies, chain stores and fast food restaurants as retailers used it as a precedent to reduce their own property tax bills. The cumulative result has been a significant reduction in local tax revenues, which creates a challenge nationally for already struggling communities striving to deliver quality services in an affordable manner. 

The money donated by Munetrix and others, including municipalities and individuals, is helping defray the legal costs incurred by the City of Escanaba as it awaits a re-trial before the Michigan Tax Tribunal beginning May 13. 

“Serving more than 300 Michigan municipalities and school districts, Munetrix gets in the trenches with our customers to help build and support fiscally healthy governmental units throughout Michigan. This donation falls right in line with that type of support and shows our commitment to their mission,” Munetrix President Bob Kittle said. 

News

Munetrix again named to GovTech100 index for innovation and effectiveness in government technology

Auburn Hills, Mich. – February 5, 2019– Among a compendium of 100 companies focused on making a difference in state and local governments, Munetrix is pleased to announce its inclusion on the 2019 GovTech100, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country that serve government in unique, innovative and effective ways. Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has been included on the GovTech100 since its introduction in 2016 and is one of only two Michiganbased companies that made the 2019 list. 

Munetrix President Bob Kittle said it’s gratifying to be recognized among the best in the country for government tech. 

“Being named to the GovTech100 for the fourth consecutive year reinforces our commitment to helping municipalities and schools increase productivity and efficiency while planning for the future,” Kittle said. “We have worked hard to earn our reputation of being a thought leader who guides government customers in budgeting, transparency, complying with legislated mandates, and data management—enabling them to monitor their municipal wellness through the use of our technology. Our team couldn’t be more proud.” 

A complete list of GovTech100 2019 honorees can be viewed here. The list is also featured in the January/February 2019 issue of Government Technology magazine. 

The 2019 GovTech100 recognition comes on the heels of Munetrix winning the “Education Advocate” award in December 2018 from the Auburn Hills, Michigan Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to help plan for the next generation of public sector leaders. 

With estimates that only two percent of graduates are bound for a career in the public sector, while more than a third of public sector employees are expected to retire in the next seven years, Munetrix has been a leading advocate of succession planning and the development of professional administrators to head local units of government in the future. Because both cities and schools benefit by using its software platform, Munetrix products effectively respond to the ‘silver tsunami’ of anticipated retirements using data science and best-in-class analytics. 

“Munetrix has embedded a data management strategy into our online platform that institutionalizes relevant information, including compliance lists, in order to create a seamless handoff from retiree to new hire,” Kittle said. “This role-based information system lets new hires know what they need to do and when they need to do it. No matter who may come and go, the responsibilities of the role generally remain unchanged and can be successfully managed.” 

In addition to software that eases succession planning, the company offers paid internships through the Munetrix University to college students who want to learn about careers in cities and schools by working with Munetrix and its local units of government customer base. The company has hired 23 interns since the Munetrix University program began in 2012. 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to solidify its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is an approved vendor prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities. It is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure—the Munetrix Score—for cities and schools, and the company has twice received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. The GovTech100 for 2019 brings to nine the total number of awards Munetrix has received in just four years—reassurance that it is focused on the right things. 

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