GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids’ proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is a $643 million spending plan, again reaching pre-pandemic levels. But it’s what’s not in the budget that may generate the most talk over the next few years.

City Manager Mark Washington’s proposed budget is up some $44 million from last year’s spending plan. Inflation and big-ticket items, like a new Public Works Department site to make room for an amphitheater and large-scale development, are the reasons for much of that increase.

“We’ve implemented some pretty substantial increases in pay for our employees. So a lot of it is personnel,” Washington said.

There are six key priorities in the proposed spending plan: governmental excellence, economic prosperity and affordability, engaged and connected community, health and environment, mobility and safe community.

The basics like trash collection, roads and utilities are covered. There will be a slight increase in the police department budget due to labor costs.

But the biggest news may be what’s not in this year’s budget. The city hasn’t built a new fire station since the 1980s. It needs to build one new firehouse and replace two others well over 100 years old and build a new training center. The price tag is about $30 million. Washington said he’s looking at two options: the sale of bonds or putting a fire service millage in front of voters.

“That’s something we need to talk about. Obviously, it’s not proposed in this budget. This budget secures all the land acquisition but to actually build a facility, to buy the equipment and secure the staffing for it, it’s going to be additional strain on the budget that’s not forecasted in the five-year forecast,” Washington said.

The preliminary budget will be reviewed and discussed at city commission meetings on May 2, May 9 and May 16. Final discussion is expected to happen in the 10 a.m. Committee of the Whole meeting on May 23 and the budget should be adopted during the 7 p.m. May 23 commission meeting. All those meetings are public and will air on the city’s Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as Comcast Channel 26. A Spanish stream will be available on YouTube. You can also send written comments to

The 2024 fiscal year begins July 1.