Cool Cities Need Some Cold Cash

November 21, 2003
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WYOMING — Wyoming Councilwoman Carol Sheets had a message for state lawmakers last week.

She invited them to take a gander at her city’s budget and tell her what services she should cut if they further reduce revenue sharing to her city.

Grand Rapids City Manager Kurt Kimball had a memo for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, too.

“Cool cities need cold cash,” said Kimball. “So don’t cut revenue sharing.”

And Kent County Chairman David Morren had a few well-chosen words for both the governor and legislators.

“The state is picking on what it thinks is an easy target,” said Morren. “The state hopes that residents won’t understand that by cutting revenue sharing, the state is cutting services, not local government.”

Sheets, Kimball and Morren were just three of roughly 70 public officials and employees who took part in a media event to explain to local residents and Lansing politicians how another state cut to revenue sharing would affect public safety in area municipalities.

The Grand Valley Metro Council, the region’s official planning agency, organized the event, which was held in Wyoming. It appeared that most, if not all, of the council’s 32 members came together as a show of force.

“This really is a critical time in the state’s history,” said Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula. He added that revenue sharing should be seen as community funding, as those dollars come from sales taxes covered by local residents.

With having to chop $920 million from the current state budget, the governor suggested last week that revenue sharing be sliced by 6 percent — on top of nearly $500 million that has already been slashed.

Others who spoke at the event were Grand Rapids Charter Township Supervisor Mike DeVries, Gaines Charter Township Supervisor Don Hilton, Kentwood Mayor Richard Root, and Jim Beelen, supervisor of Allendale Township.

Their message was clear. Cutting revenue-sharing money is wrong and would mean that basic services would have to be cut even more.

“We’re very, very dependent on those dollars,” said Hilton, who added that revenue sharing accounts for almost 60 percent of Gaines’ budget. “The state is trying to balance their budget on our backs.”

Beelen said his township is responsible for protecting the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University. But grants from the state to do just that have almost disappeared in recent years. He said Allendale only gets $15,000 a year in fire-fighting grants to cover $160 million worth of state buildings on the campus, a situation that will only get worse with less revenue sharing.

“What do we not respond to if our revenue sharing is cut by 20 percent?” Beelen asked. “We are headed into a statewide public-safety crisis.”

Kimball said commissioners have already ripped $16 million from the current city budget and another cut could mean losing police officers or fire fighters along with a few stations.

“What has gotten the state into this pickle is a faltering economy,” said Kimball. “But who will invest in cities that aren’t safe?”  

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