GRAND RAPIDS — It sounds like an oxymoron. But the Grand Valley Metro Council will see an increase in membership fees from last year, without raising dues for members. The regional planning agency expects to gain an additional $45,000 in membership fees this fiscal year, and the organization has counters from the U.S. Census Bureau to thank for that.
The Metro Council charges its 32 member communities a set per-capita fee. And the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, marks the first time that the agency used population figures from the 2000 Census to bill its members. The region’s overall increase in residents means more revenue for the Metro Council, but without a rate hike.
In fact, the Metro Council hasn’t raised membership dues in seven years.
“The rate has remained the same since at least 1994,” said Executive Director Jerry Felix. “I don’t know of many places where you paid the exact same dollar amount for a service since 1994.
“Now there are more services and people are paying for certain things. They’ve matched water and sewer money. They’ve put money into REGIS. But we’ve been able to basically make the thing go with no additional cost to the members.”
Membership fees to the Metro Council are projected to total $351,742 for the coming fiscal year, up from $306,178 for the current fiscal year. The difference works out to be an increase of $45,564, or roughly 15 percent. Call it a population gratuity.
The Metro Council offers members three types of rates. For cities and townships located in the main boundary of the metropolitan planning organization, or MPO, the charge is 38 cents per resident. For communities outside of the MPO, the charge is 27 cents per resident. Counties and a group of transportation members, like the Kent County Road Commission, are charged 11 cents per resident.
The city of Grand Rapids pays the largest membership fee, expected to be $75,164 for the upcoming fiscal year. Kent County is next with an annual fee projected to be $63,177. Only three members will see a drop in their fees this year, as East Grand Rapids, Greenville and Middleville lost a few residents in the last census.
Council members conditionally passed their FY2001-02 budget, one that projects $1.4 million in revenues and a similar amount in expenditures, at their last meeting. The council expects to end the upcoming fiscal year $608,590 to the good. Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie, however, asked for more time to go over the budget.
“Basically, it’s approved, but we’ll go and approve it one more time in October,” said Felix. “We still end up with a balanced budget. We still have the same personnel. So we’re in good shape.”
There is a chance that the council will get more revenue than projected in the budget, as a possibility exists that the agency will receive a few more grants. But the board won’t know that until early 2002.
The long-awaited debut of REGIS, the Regional Geographic Information System, has been tentatively set for November. The computerized land-use system, which will likely make life easier for planners and developers, was supposed to have gone online this summer.
“We have some server issues, too many hits on it and it breaks down a little bit. We’re working on that. But a full community rollout will probably take place Nov. 13. That’s the tentative date they’ve set,” said Felix.
By the way, Nov. 13 falls on a Tuesday and not a Friday this year.