City commission approves 2020 budget


Grand Rapids’ budget for fiscal year 2020 is officially on track to begin July 1. The new plan establishes a series of operating, debt service and capital appropriations focused on the city’s strategic plan.

The Grand Rapids City Commission officially approved the plan May 21. The $553-million spending plan, down from last year’s $586-million plan, reduces the city’s property tax millage rate from 8.9710 mills to 8.9011 mills. Additionally, the general operating fund is $147,831,777, up from the $143,220,184 for FY2019.

“I am proud of this budget, which is a collaborative effort between our world-class staff and the city commission,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “I am grateful to community members who have shared their thoughts and engaged with us during the budget process. This fiscal plan will keep our momentum going.”

Washington presented the FY2020 preliminary fiscal plan in late April, according to an earlier Business Journal report. The final spending plan is down slightly from the $563,094,776 originally proposed.

The spending plan calls for more than $3.25 million in new operational investments across all six strategic priority areas to support services intended to achieve more equitable outcomes.

The strategic plan is for fiscal years 2020 through 2023 and was approved by the city commission early in April. The priorities are economic prosperity and affordability, mobility, health and environment, safe community, governmental excellence, and an engaged and connected community.

Capital investments for economic prosperity and affordability 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.

Mobility-related investments include the addition of roughly 50 bus shelters as a part of the second year of investments in the bus shelter expansion program; investments to help support the construction of roughly 500 parking spaces; existing parking facility access improvements; and ADA, systematic and connectivity sidewalk investments.

Safe community investments include the creation of an evening shift for community policing services by adding three civilians and two officers and redeploying three officers; traffic safety projects and improvements; police vehicles, fire apparatus and equipment; and the addition of two crime analysts, a crisis prevention specialist and behavioral health specialist.

Investments in health and environment include improvements to 13 parks as part of the voter-approved parks millage, Third Ward parkland acquisition, water and sewer investments in conjunction with Vital Streets projects and the replacement of 5% of all private lead water service lines.

Government Excellence projects include asset management investments to maintain city buildings and facilities, restoration of the Calder Plaza sculpture La Grande Vitesse and street lighting infrastructure projects.

Investments toward creating an engaged and connected community include e-poll book laptops and absentee voter ballot tabulators to improve the election process and community cable television equipment upgrades.

The budget is focused on ensuring equitable investments in the city’s Neighborhoods of Focus — 17 U.S. Census tracts that have concentrated poverty and unemployment — and continues the Third Ward Equity Fund.

Equity has been a major focus of the budget narrative since the formulation of the city’s strategic plan, which highlighted Grand Rapids’ poor reputation for racial equity, including being named second worst for African Americans Economically (2015, Forbes).

“I look forward to working with city staff to implement these investments over the next year, and I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our community as a result of this work,” Washington said.

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