City eyes $586M spending plan


The Grand Rapids City Commission will discuss a proposed fiscal spending plan before it is implemented in July.

Interim City Manager Eric DeLong presented the preliminary spending plan for fiscal year 2019 to the city commissioners last week. The proposed $586,593,168 spending plan is geared toward communications, affordable housing, community and police relations, legacy costs, economic development, community engagement and reducing disparities among other areas.

The proposal also includes spending for the Vital Streets program, parks maintenance, pools and playgrounds, street lighting, Grand River restoration, tree maintenance and transit shelters.

The spending plan is the result of a yearlong series of outreach sessions between the city and members of the community.

“The people want a closer relationship with our police department,” DeLong said. “They believe an additional community focus would be an improvement.”

The commission established the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force in May 2017. The task force includes residents of each of the city’s three wards and police officers of every rank. Its role is to review the police department’s policies and procedures to identify those that may result in racial bias.

Commissioners appropriated $1 million toward investment in the task force in FY2018 and the preliminary plan includes continuing that appropriation through FY2022.

DeLong also noted the community feedback around the city’s HousingNOW! initiative. The city already has implemented six of the 11 recommendations in the package, including the creation of the Affordable Housing Fund in partnership with the Grand Rapids Housing Commission.

Other recommendations involved zoning ordinance amendments designed to increase the supply of affordable housing.

DeLong said another portion of the initiative that would regulate rental applications still is under review.

Other highlights of the proposed fiscal plan include:

  • Investing $4.2 million to renovate, repair or reconstruct eight city-owned parks and investing in a programming study to evaluate how best to restore the lodge at Martin Luther King Jr. Park

  • Investing each year over a five-year period in complementary streetscape features in conjunction with Vital Streets projects in the Southtown, South Division and Grandville corridors

  • Implementing racial equity goals across all departments and investing $50,000 to support a comprehensive strategic planning process

  • Contributing $17.5 million to Vital Streets asset management and debt retirement

  • Investing an estimated $20 million in LED streetlight conversion and electrical distribution systems through a multiyear asset management program

  • Budgeting $2.4 million over five years for the Grand River restoration project development and implementation

  • Using $400,000 to address the backlog of “priority two” trees within seven years and begin implementation of a proactive tree maintenance management plan

  • Investing $250,000 to continue to improve bus shelter locations throughout the city

While the plan showed continued positive results in FY2019, the next four years predicted growing net operating losses in the general operating fund.

“If you were to look back at last year (FY2018), we kind of had the same situation,” DeLong said. “What that tells me is we need to continue improving productivity and services.”

To compensate for the predicted loss, DeLong said it’s necessary to continue to work the city’s Transformation Plan to create a sufficient operating margin.

The Transformation Plan includes a special fund that accounts for temporary income tax increases. The income tax rate increase began in FY2011 and was scheduled after FY2015.

In 2014, voters approved a 15-year extension to the temporary income tax increase for the Vital Streets program. DeLong said the increase allowed the city to raise its streets from a 37 percent good and fair rating to a 58 percent good and fair rating, with a continued goal of 70 percent of city streets rated good and fair by the end of the 15-year extension.

The FY2019-23 preliminary plan predicted total general operating fund revenue of $143,220,184 for FY2019; $147,380,956 for FY2020; $150,000,444 for FY2021; $151,684,726 for FY2022; and $154,428,977 for FY2023.

City commissioners will review the fiscal plan from May into early June. The schedule of meetings is:

  • May 1 – Set public hearing about fees

  • May 22 – Public hearing for fees and set public hearing for budget and millage

  • June 5 – Public hearing for budget and millage and adopt fees

  • June 12 – Adopt budget and millage

  • July 1 – FY2019 begins

All sessions are open to the public and will take place in the City Commission Chambers on the ninth floor of City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW.

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