Kalamazoo residents raise concerns about proposed foundation

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As Kalamazoo leaders consider a $70 million donation to the city, community members spoke up with concerns about how that money will be managed.

The discussion about the private donations to create the proposed Foundation for Excellence played out at Kalamazoo City Commission meeting Monday night.

Speakers both for and against the foundation spoke with conviction, wanting the best for their community. Some of that came in the form of skepticism as people questioned the goals for the foundation. Community members asked whether the donors will have control of how the money is spent and mentioned concerns about a lack of information online to help break down how the foundation will actually work.

If approved, the foundation would eliminate the city’s deficit, fund key investments and improvements like roads, parks and youth programs, and cut property taxes for residents.

But community members argued the program wouldn’t help the people in Kalamazoo who need it most because people who rent don’t pay property tax.

“Our city needs help, our children need food, our children need education. The stuff that they really need, they need pre-K. We don’t need a property tax (break). We don’t need help with that. The people that own homes, they got jobs,” resident Marta Lehman said.

Some commissioners indicated they felt blindsided by how the plan came to the table.

“It absolutely should’ve been a directive discussed and put forward by our elected representatives before a plan was rolled out and funds were solicited,” Commissioner Matt Milcarek said.

“I have also felt very strongly that we need to really work on our transparency, I think, amongst each other and also you know amongst our citizens,” Commissioner Shannon Sykes added.

The Kalamazoo City Commission set itself a deadline of Sept. 6 to decide on the next meeting at which it will further discuss the Foundation for Excellence.

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