City aims to lower spending


The city of Grand Rapids is in the initial stages of implementing its budget for Fiscal Year 2020, and the spending plan outlines the key priorities in the city’s four-year strategic plan.

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington last week presented the FY2020 Preliminary Fiscal Plan to the city commission.

The proposed $563,094,776 spending plan is lower than last year’s $586-million plan and maintains essential city services, strengthens the organization’s ability to implement its strategic priorities and ensures financial stability. Additionally, the proposed general operating fund portion of the budget increased to $148,934,792 from the $143,220,184 proposed for FY2019.

As the Business Journal previously reported, the proposed spending plan is focused on advancing the outcomes in the city’s new strategic plan to ensure measurable improvements across each of the six priority areas: economic prosperity and affordability, mobility, safe community, health and environment, governmental excellence, and engaged and connected community.

The strategic plan is for fiscal years 2020 through 2023 and was approved by the city commission April 9.

Economic prosperity and affordability

New operating investments for FY2020 total $639,488. Expenditures include establishing a single point of contact within the city to lead the transition from the Kent County Land Bank Authority and focus direct expertise on affordable housing work; increased investment in small business recruitment, development and retention; and closer alignment of the Micro-local Business Development function to the Economic Development Office, where it can help leverage a new emphasis on small and local business development.

Recommended capital investments in the economic prosperity and affordability strategic priority total $2.15 million for FY2020. These include continuing the Grand River restoration effort, participation in a pilot project to add a downtown comfort station with community stakeholders and addition of the phase 2 plaza portion of the Lyon Square restoration.

The Lyon Square restoration project is a multiyear, $6.4-million investment in collaboration with the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. The DDA will partner with the city in funding a considerable portion of this project.


New operating investments for FY2020 include a total investment of $2,101,512. These include investing at the full year level for the first time for the expanded Downtown Area Shuttle circulator, more frequent and fare-less service on Route 19 and Silver Line free fare zone, and a second year of investment in the bus shelter expansion program.

Recommended capital investments in the mobility strategic priority total $21.3 million for FY2020. The most significant investments are continued Vital Streets investments including projects involving segments of Hall Street, Alger Street, Broadway Avenue, Division Avenue from Wealthy Street to Cherry Street, Hastings Street, Mason Street, Emerald Avenue, Crescent Street, Dale Street, Paris Avenue, Valley Avenue, Livingston Avenue, Ottawa Avenue, Walker Avenue, Market Avenue, Tremont Boulevard, Eastern Avenue, Three Mile Road and continued temporary paving, allocations for parking expansion, access control improvements at parking facilities, acquisition of replacement DASH vehicles, and transit stop improvements.

Health and environment

Health and environment is the largest single combined investment area in the FY2020 plan. New operating investments total $1,043,660. This includes an increased investment in cemetery forestry work by the refuse fund, converting all neighborhood parking lots owned and operated by Mobile GR to LED lighting, continuing the phased implementation of Stormwater Level C investment, an increased GOF subsidy to the cemetery fund to support transition from temporary to full-time groundskeepers, an increase in contractual services for land use and development services inspections, and seed funding for connecting children to nature.

Recommended capital investments in the health and environment strategic priority total $57.6 million for FY2020. These include Godfrey Avenue water/sewer utility reconstruction, parks millage project improvements, the Hastings nonmotorized trail, interim improvements at Martin Luther King Jr. Park lodge, asset management investments at the Lake Michigan Filtration Plant and the Water Resource Recovery Facility, private lead water service line replacement and water/sewer investments in conjunction with the Vital Streets project.

Safe community

New operating investments for FY2020 total $2,992,706. The majority of these funds are recommended to create a five-person evening shift of Community Policing services, adding two police officers and three civilian support personnel to enable reassignment of three current police officers currently performing clerical duties in the department.

Other recommendations are to add two civilian crime analyst positions, one crisis intervention and behavioral health specialist and one public safety liaison position to be housed in the executive office.

Recommended capital investments in the safe community strategic priority total $4.3 million for FY2020. The investments include continued traffic signal modernization improvements, traffic safety projects, support for the Division Street Fire Station redevelopment project, and purchase of advanced water rescue equipment, police vehicles and fire apparatus.

Governmental excellence

New operating investments for FY2020 total $1,582,558 in multiple funds. This includes piloting a new system of employment entrance testing to help hire for ability, contractual services to support succession planning for operations in the comptroller’s office, investment in master plan scoping and establishing the Office of Performance Management and Sustainability.

Recommended capital investments in the governmental excellence strategic priority total $14.5 million for FY2020. The most significant investments include asset management projects to maintain the condition of city buildings and facilities, street lighting infrastructure projects financed through bond proceeds and restoration of the La Grande Vitesse stabile.

Engaged and connected community

New operating investments for FY2020 include $291,204 in multiple funds. They include resources to survey the community on its perception of city services, events, programs and facilities; increased investments in community-based special events like the Cesar E. Chavez March and African American Male Achievement Conference; 17 additional investments in closed captioning capability for city broadcasts; resources for contractual services for the community survey; social media services; outreach and other initiatives; and an increase in the Neighborhood Match Fund.

Recommended capital investments in the engaged and connected community strategic priority total $569,000 for FY2020. The investments include upgrades in community cable television equipment.

According to an earlier Business Journal report, equity is a key focus for the city’s four-year strategic plan, following several poor rankings for Grand Rapids, including a 2015 Forbes article, which ranked Grand Rapids the second-worst city for African Americans economically.

The preliminary fiscal plan recommends more than $4 million in new operating and capital investments that will improve equitable services across the community. Investments include $200,000 for Martin Luther King Jr. Park lodge improvements, $100,000 to reach hard-to-count communities for the 2020 Census and affordable housing contract services to the tune of $137,500.

The city commission will hear presentations on the preliminary fiscal plan through mid-May. The sessions will be open to the public and will take place on the ninth floor commission chambers at City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW. 

Presentation and adoption schedule

  • April 30, 9 a.m. – Health and environment, governmental excellence, engaged and connected community

  • May 7, 9 a.m. – Equity, capital, economic prosperity and affordability, mobility and safe community

  • May 14, 9:30 a.m. – Committee of the Whole discussion on the fiscal plan

  • May 14, 7 p.m. – Public hearing on the fiscal plan

  • May 21, 9:30 a.m. – Committee of the Whole deliberations 

  • May 21, 7 p.m. – City commission adoption of the FY2020

  • May 23, 9 a.m. – If needed

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