Community sounds off to Grand Rapids leaders on proposed budget

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday was the public’s last chance to weigh in on the city of Grand Rapids’ 2021-2022 budget.

The virtual meeting began at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The public did not hold back during the meeting, telling city leaders they aren’t doing their jobs. Some said they aren’t being heard, even though the city has held more community input meetings about the budget than what’s required.

“Y’all want to do what you want to do with our money and expect us to just sit back and shut up but we’re not going to,” one resident said during the meeting. “You’re going to have these problems until you start listening to community voices so get used it.”

One of the most contentious debates involved funding for the Grand Rapids Police Department. Under the proposal being considered, GRPD’s portion of the budget would be cut to just under 36% of the general fund.

Police reform activists, including a group called Defund the GRPD, want the department’s budget slashed to 32%, the lowest it can go under the city charter.

The resident directed her comments to the city manager Mark Washington and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss.

“Both (Washington) and Bliss say ‘oh we’re going above and beyond, we don’t have to do this, the charter doesn’t mandate having these conversations,'” she said. “Do y’all want a cookie? Then bake one. You’re doing your job. Your job is to represent us and our interest which includes listening to them. If that’s too much for you, then you need to get a new job.”

The proposed $546 million spending plan comes despite a drop of $36 million in income tax revenues brought on by job losses and people who normally work in the city working remotely during the pandemic. It’s expected that $94 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will make up the difference.

The commission will vote on the budget, which takes effect July 1, during a special meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday.

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