GVMC In Black

August 5, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — An expected deficit of $258,000 for the upcoming fiscal year of the Grand Valley Metro Council was turned into a $51,000 surplus last week. Board members were told that cost-cutting measures and more transportation revenue were the main reasons the bottom line for next year’s fiscal plan went from red to black.

“This is a one-year surplus,” said GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula, as he began detailing the expense reductions made to the $1.96 million proposed budget.

But a few board members weren’t convinced that any costs were actually cut.

“It’s pretty much a status quo budget. It’s just shifted to who pays the bills,” said Michael DeVries, supervisor of Grand Rapids Township.

Although revenue is expected to rise by $90,580 in FY06, Stypula said the $309,000 swing in the budgets that were offered last May and last week mostly comes from cutting expenses in two of the planning agency’s departments: administration and land-use planning. The two combine for $417,165 in reductions to the next budget, which will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Administrative expenditures would be lowered by $109,500. Salaries and fringe benefits would take the biggest hits, as both account for $105,790 of the total eliminated. The budget for the division would fall from $201,825 this year to $92,325 next year, a 54-percent drop.

Land-use planning expenses would be reduced by $307,665. Salaries and benefits would lose $139,030, contractual services would get wiped out to save $141,800, and the Growing Communities Conference would be eliminated to save $25,670. Those cuts would come to $306,500, all but $1,100 of the total reduction. The department’s budget would freefall from $347,325 this year to $39,660 next year, a slash of 89 percent.

But expenses for the council’s third department, transportation, would rise next year by $298,374 to $1.52 million — up 24 percent from this year. Money for salaries and benefits in transportation would go up by $337,720, or $92,900 more than the $244,820 the budget would erase from salaries and benefits in the council’s two other departments.

The changes would push the agency’s cost for salaries and benefits in the transportation department from $524,700 this year to $862,420 next year.

Stypula told board members that under the proposed budget the land-use planners would work with those in the agency’s transportation division and together they would produce the 30-year outlook for transit and transportation in the region. He said no one had to be let go.

But DeVries noted that revenue for the coming year was going up by the normal 5 percent and that total expenses for next year were roughly the same as this year. He said the savings from the land-use and administrative divisions were being shifted to transportation.

“I’d like an administrative cost to be a cost — a real cost,” he said.

GR City Manager Kurt Kimball pointed out that despite all the talk of cuts, no one from the land-use planning department was being pink-slipped, and the agency’s funding sources might get the wrong message concerning the budget cuts.

“Outside investors could read this as a disinvestment and neither Andy (Bowman) or Jay (Hoekstra) are going anywhere,” he said.

GVMC Transportation Director Abed Itanti told the board that none of the expenditures in the upcoming fiscal year budget had been shifted.

Board members will vote on the budget next month, following a public hearing at their next meeting. The Metro Council is expected to lose $193,884 for this fiscal year, a loss that will be covered by the agency’s fund balance.    

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