Proposed GR budget helped by fed relief, cuts GRPD by 3%

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington presented his preliminary 2021-2022 budget plan to city commissioners Tuesday morning.

“It allows us to continue our services without any significant reductions. Staffing levels are the same as they were in fiscal (year) ’21,” Washington told commissioners.

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 from home during the pandemic. Income tax makes up about 70% of the city’s general fund revenues.

City leaders say they expect a slow recovery from the pandemic. Losses in income tax revenues are expected to continue until midway through the 2024-2025 budget year, with an additional $60 million in income tax losses.

While income tax collection has dropped off, Washington says the need for city services has not.

“In many instances, the request for services have increased,” he said. “The demand for park utilization has increased. The demand for outdoor gatherings has intensified. The demand for public safety has also increased. “

It’s expected that $94 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds will make up the difference.

“We are so thrilled at the relief efforts that have been approved at the federal level that will allow us to maintain essential city services,” Washington said.

One of the most contentious debates during last year’s budget process involved funding for the Grand Rapids Police Department.

This year, GRPD’s portion of the budget would be cut by just under 3% from 2021-2022 levels, but due to technology upgrades and other savings, dollars sent to the department would actually increase by $665,189 in the 2021-2022 fiscal year spending plan.

Washington says sworn officer staffing will remain the same.

“We’re doing it in a way that’s responsible in that we’re not jeopardizing the safety of our community,” he said.

Several non-sworn positions in the GRPD will move to other departments.

The percentage reduction comes after a record year of violent crime in the city, while at the same time, calls to defund police are coming from activists.

In the past, GRPD leaders had asked for increased funding to hire more officers to support community policing efforts, arguing their call volume does not allow time for a successful community policing strategy.

Activist argue at least a portion of the GRPD budget should be spent on social programs to prevent crime. The group People Budget of Grand Rapids argued last year for a larger cut, from 39% of the budget to 32%. Under the city charter, 32% is the lowest the budget can go.

Under next year’s budget, six non-sworn positions in the GRPD will move to other departments. Three radio technicians will move to the city’s dispatch center. The remaining three will be assigned to community programs, including lead abatement and other neighborhood services.

Tuesday’s budget presentation was the first step in a process that will continue through May.

The public can weigh in during a town hall meeting Thursday, May 6 at 6 p.m.

On Tuesday, May 18, the city commission will hold a public hearing during the regular city commission meeting.

Commissioners will vote on the plan during its 9 a.m. meeting Thursday, May 20.

All work sessions and meetings will be streamed live on the city’s Facebook and YouTube and broadcast live on Comcast Channel 26.

*Correction: A previous version of this article stated the town hall meeting on May 6 would begin at 7 p.m. It actually begins at 6 p.m. and runs until 7 p.m. We regret the error, which has been fixed.

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