Taking A Bigger Scoop

June 8, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — When city commissioners adopted this year’s general operating fund budget a year ago last June, they had to transfer $4.2 million from the fund balance to cover expenditures that totaled $118.9 million for FY07.

When they adopted next year’s general operating fund budget last week, they agreed to dig even deeper into that fund balance by scooping out $5.2 million to cover expenditures that are expected to total $123.1 million for FY08.

“I think this budget reflects neighborhood priorities more than any other year in the last four years,” said 2nd Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala.

Without that big scoop, the general fund would have fallen short by that amount even though receipts from three of the four revenue sources that fund general operations are expected to rise by about $4.6 million from last year. Here’s how:

  • Revenue from income taxes should reach $57.8 million during FY08, up from the $55 million expected this year.
  • Revenue from property taxes should reach $12.5 million, up from $11.9 million expected this year.
  • Revenue from the “other” category — an assembly of fees, payments and money from other city funds — should reach nearly $25.7 million, up a bit from the $24.5 million expected this year.

The only revenue-source dip the fund has been projected to have comes from the usual suspect: the state.

City Manager Kurt Kimball is expecting state-shared revenues to total almost $21.4 million, which is about $1.8 million less than the $23.2 million the city expected Lansing to hand over at this time last year. Kimball said the state has cut more than $30 million in revenue-sharing payments to the city since 2000.

The city is starting FY08 with $13.1 million in the fund balance. But by year’s end, the reserve is expected to drop to what Kimball called a “perilously low” $7.9 million. And the reserve could fall further if the city doesn’t collect all the revenue-sharing payments from the state it feels it has coming.

For the coming fiscal year, commissioners will give police and fire more money next year. The police will get $48 million in FY08, up from the $43 million the department got this year.

“The single greatest concern I hear from our citizens is safety. They want safe streets. We’ve seen an increase in street violence — youth violence in the streets,” said Mayor George Heartwell.

“Public safety is crucial in trying to retain residents and businesses in the city,” added 3rd Ward Commissioner Elias Lumpkins.

Firefighters are on the line to receive almost $26 million next year, up from $23 million this year.

“We’re doing a lot more with a lot less. We’re keeping our equipment up, even with the state cutting $30 million from us over the past six years,” said 1st Ward Commissioner Roy Schmidt about fire protection.

Funding for the planning- and economic-development services the city offers will come close to $3.3 million next year, up from the $2.7 million those services received this year.

City workers will feel the most financial pain next year, as employee compensation will be cut by almost $2.6 million over the coming year.

“That’s a matter for collective bargaining that still has to be addressed,” said Heartwell.

The city’s new fiscal year starts on July 1.     

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