GVMC Fills Budget Holes

GRAND RAPIDS — When the Grand Valley Metro Council starts its 15th year soon, it will do so with a surplus etched into its fiscal year budget.

That news by itself gives the 32 member communities of the regional planning agency reason to celebrate at its quarterly luncheon on Oct. 17, which will also serve as a birthday party. Just two months ago, the first draft of the 2006 budget had members staring at a shortfall of $258,000, and none thought a celebration was in order.

But departmental reorganizations and cuts to expenses turned that projected deficit into an expected surplus of $51,029 for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Although it’s a small surplus for a budget that slightly exceeds $2 million, the outcome represents a large improvement over the current fiscal year.

This year’s budget, which mercifully ends on Sept. 30, is expected to leave the council $193,884 in the red and drain its fund balance by that amount. The FY05 budget was on track to draw in $1.92 million in revenue and to draw out $2.11 million in expenditures.

Expenses for FY06 have been pegged at nearly $1.96 million, or about $150,000 less than this year.

“This is a very conservative budget. The numbers are solid,” said GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula before the board recently ratified the budget.

“Rest assured, we will watch expenses every step of the way,” he added.

A litany of cost reductions have resulted in changes to some of the things the council has done in the past and to some of the events the council has hosted in the past.

The most significant of the latter is the potential loss of the annual Growing Communities Conference, which has gone from being held in a high school auditorium to taking place at FrederikMeijerGardens & SculpturePark the last several years. The event has featured land-use planners with national reputations. But unless the council can find adequate funding for the event, the conference won’t be held next June.

Another significant change is that grants from the state, KentCounty and the Urban Cooperation Board for land-use planning activities ended this year. Stypula said his top priority is to find funding for the land-use planning department, an effort necessary to keep the council’s land-use planning guidelines active.

Top income sources for the upcoming fiscal year are nearly $1.3 million in transportation revenue, almost $400,000 in membership fees and $200,000 in project reimbursements.    

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