City adopts $598M budget

Spending plan includes funds for public safety, police reform and equitable engagement.
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Mark Washington Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids City Commission formally adopted its 2023 fiscal year budget with plans to continue essential services and enhance public safety oversight.

The $598 million spending plan was approved on May 24 and will go into effect on July 1. Priorities for the “continuation” budget are guided by the city’s current strategic plan, which covers fiscal years 2020-23.

Funding is included for primary focus areas such as improvement of community and police relations, enhanced mental health intervention, affordable housing and climate-related initiatives.

“The FY2023 Fiscal Plan represents a continuation of fiscally sustainable essential services with an acknowledgement that recent events require leaders to address urgent questions,” said Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington. “Those include improving public safety, accelerating police reform, increasing investment in oversight, ensuring equitable community engagement and supporting the community’s equitable recovery and growth.”

The FY2023 plan anticipates a 4% increase in income tax revenues followed by a 3% increase each year for FY2024-27. It also includes a 2% property tax millage rate reduction from 8.9950 to 8.8331 mills.

Outlined in the plan are capital investments of $163.34 million in FY2023 and $504.58 million across all five years (FY2023-27). These investments are made possible through a variety of funding sources such as the General Operating Fund (GOF) and enterprise funds, bonds, federal and state allocations, leveraged funds, millages and grants.

The city also anticipates use of $32.9 million of its $92.2 million in American Rescue Plan funds to ensure continuity of services and pilot strategic initiatives.

In May, Washington presented the preliminary budget plan of $597 million. Adjustments during the adoption process include allocation of an additional $1 million for the Third Ward Equity Fund to ensure investment in historically underserved areas of the community.

Items of note for the FY2023 budget include a $700,000 investment in a mental health police co-response mobile crisis intervention team in partnership with Network180, the community mental health authority for Kent County.

This initiative will allow mental health and behavioral health clinicians to either co-respond or lead the response for certain calls for service when they are better trained to respond than law enforcement.

The adopted FY2023 plan also reduces the police budget to 33.97% of the GOF instead of the proposed 34.2%. In 2021, the police budget was 38.6% of the fund.

The city will invest in areas outside of the police department such as the allocation of resources to the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability (OPA), increasing funds from $405,781 to $1.7 million. 

This will allow the office to hire an additional full-time staff person, lead community-informed training for officers, engage with the immigrant and refugee community and take on the transfer of oversight of the body-worn camera contract procurement and enforcement.

Additionally, the OPA will leverage $600,000 in federal earmarks for violence reduction and a recently announced $250,000 grant for staff capacity for FY2023, bringing the OPA’s total FY2023 budget to $2.55 million — a 537% increase over this year.

Washington said Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom will continue to evaluate ways to improve police policy, services, relationships and safety.

“Chief Winstrom will engage the community over the next couple of months and shortly thereafter provide a report on his initial observations and plans for the department on ways to improve community-police relations and more effectively implement the police strategic plan,” he said.

The city’s FY2023 fiscal plan also provides support for areas such as community-led participatory budgeting for projects to improve the quality of life in Grand Rapids.

This support comes from the $2 million the city reserved from awarded funds as part of the American Rescue Plan. In addition to the $1 million reserved for the Third Ward, $600,000 is designated for the Second Ward and $400,000 will go to the First Ward.

The Participatory Budgeting Grand Rapids (PBGR) process was introduced in 2021. Currently, the PBGR steering committee is working to review and refine submitted project proposals ahead of a public vote in September.

Adoption of approved projects by the city commission is expected to take place during October and November. Project implementation still is to be determined.

In terms of affordable housing, the city plans to invest $26.7 million in housing and housing stability as part of the FY2023 plan. Of that figure, $6 million has been identified for the Affordable Housing Fund and its potential growth based on disposition of city-owned land at 201 Market Ave. SW.

These efforts will be complemented by $6.7 million in grants from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME, HOME-ARP and the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program.

“This budget shows our commitment to ensure that economic recovery following the pandemic is equitable for all communities,” Washington said. “Equitable economic growth remains essential. Growing housing supply, especially affordable housing, remains a critical regional success factor.”

Also included as part of the new fiscal plan are climate-related initiatives. During the May 24 city commission meeting, Second Ward commissioner Joseph Jones highlighted priorities such as climate justice and adaptation.

The city plans to invest $208.5 million to implement carbon reduction with more environmentally friendly infrastructure and electrification of vehicles. Funds will be used for lead service line replacements, water production, water treatment and storm water management, as well.

Jones also said investments will go toward expanding city parks and green spaces and adding more emphasis on recycling with the creation of a new position for recycling education.

In determining the FY2023 budget, Washington said this is the third fiscal plan the city has developed while facing multiple crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, economic disruption, climate change and social and racial tension.

According to Washington, the FY2021 plan helped the city navigate the uncertainty of the pandemic, leverage relief money and make space for the development of a new strategic plan for the police department.

The FY2022 fiscal plan amounted to $546 million and was crafted by what the city learned and sought to adapt while continuing municipal service levels and meeting financial obligations.

Washington said $63 million is now projected to qualify as revenue replacement from FY2021 to FY2025 and aligned to priorities established by the city commission.

The FY2023 fiscal plan includes 1,665 authorized staff positions for FY2023, which is approximately 300 fewer positions than 2002 staffing levels at a time when the city continues to see steady population growth and demand for services.

The FY2023 budget will accommodate 15 staffing additions made during the current fiscal year while recommending a total of eight staffing additions in the upcoming fiscal year to achieve strategic plan outcomes.

Washington said city staff remains committed to delivering city services and improving the quality of life in Grand Rapids with this budget adoption.

“Our dedicated workforce stands ready to usher in a new era of progress that will drive Grand Rapids toward our vision of being an equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative city with a robust economy, safe and healthy community, and the opportunity for a high quality of life for all,” he said. 

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