Council Turning Redder

July 11, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The financial news got bleaker for members of the Grand Valley Metro Council last week when they had to amend their current fiscal-year budget, a move that added another $194,620 in red ink to the bottom line.

“I know this is a large amount of money,” said GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula to the roughly 20 board members who were in attendance.

More than $550,000 in expenditures had to be tacked onto the budget, with most of those expenses coming from land-use planning contracts. Invoices for some of the projects, like the popular Zimmerman/Volk housing market study, were to have been submitted the previous fiscal year. But Stypula said additional work on the projects delayed the arrival of those invoices until the current year.

Those non-budgeted expenses are being partly offset by $357,505 in additional revenue. But the difference between the expenditures and revenue adds $194,620 to the year’s deficit, which will be covered with a like amount of dollars from the council’s fund balance.

The fund balance, or reserve account, stood at $588,000 when the fiscal year began last October. Withdrawing $194,000 from the fund to balance the budget will leave the account with about $394,000, although that figure could rise by as much as $40,000 by the time the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Instead of the $11,742 shortfall projected for the FY05 budget, Metro Council members are now looking at a deficit of $206,352 for the fiscal year.

Instead of the $1.88 million budget that was projected for the year, Metro Council members now have a $2.43 million financial plan.

“There are some huge concerns on next year’s budget, also. We have less money than we thought,” said Michael DeVries, supervisor of Grand RapidsTownship

DeVries added that board members should prepare for the worst, because grants, which provide the council with a good portion of its revenue, aren’t a given and membership dues can’t be hiked any higher for additional income.

“We need an austerity budget,” said DeVries.

In May, members learned that a draft of the FY06 budget had a deficit of over $258,000. But the following month, members agreed to raise the portion of their dues that cover the council’s transportation budget, which is expected to mean another $46,000 in revenue for the coming fiscal year.

Still, the regional planning agency needs funds to cover administration costs and land-use planning activities and Stypula said he was looking locally and statewide for those dollars from public and private organizations.

“There is nothing in that budget that isn’t in play,” he said.

Board members are expected to get their first look at the FY06 budget next month.

“If we don’t have an alternate plan in place (now),” said Gaines Township Supervisor Don Hilton, “I hope we have an alternate plan in place quickly.”    

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