GR Budget Calls For Job Cuts

    GRAND RAPIDS — Job cuts and pay freezes would be the order of the day under the preliminary 2004 fiscal plan presented to city commissioners Tuesday.  

    The city’s $269 million general fund budget is comparable to last year’s, but the operating portion of the budget is the tightest squeezed. Operations spending is budgeted at $121 million, down about 5 percent from last year. 

    City Manager Kurt Kimball said the city is prepared to eliminate 43 positions and de-fund 21. 

    The benefit of de-funding rather de-authorizing the positions is that they would be easier to reconstitute in the event that resources improve, so funding could be restored without having to re-authorize the positions, Kimball explained.  

    The budget doesn’t provide for any salary adjustments in 2004.

    In the police department, six uniformed officer positions and four civilian positions would be eliminated, while 17 vacant positions would be left unfilled. Overtime would also be reduced 28 percent.

    In the fire department, Kimball has proposed hiring 21 new firefighters to reduce overtime costs and reducing the number of current firefighters from 57 to 53 during the interim the new recruits are being trained. 

    He is not recommending any reductions in the city street fund.

    He said this year’s budget balancing act has been especially arduous given the cumulative affect of a down economy over the last three years. 

    “This is as lean and mean as we’ve seen it in 20 years,” Kimball told commissioners. 

    The city has been dealt a significant blow by the double whammy of decreased city income tax revenues and a nearly 20 percent reduction in state revenue sharing funds over the past two years under former Gov. John Engler, Kimball said.  

    “Unlike many other cities, I think it’s tougher on us because we rely on income tax as 45 percent of our revenue in the general fund. Our second largest source of revenue, as you know, is money from the state…”

    The performance of the stock market, combined with pension fund requirements and spiraling health care costs have forced the city to pay more in some areas even while revenues are decreasing, he said.

    All city departments contributed to the belt tightening, he added. 

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