Kent County Sets Annual Budget

September 26, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — At first glance, Kent County’s upcoming budget may appear to be a drastic change from this year’s. After all, the 2003 budget stood at $402.2 million and the 2004 budget, approved by commissioners last week, is “only” $326.3 million.

But seeing the new figure as a startling alteration to the county’s expected revenues and expenditures would be a fiscal illusion, one that even David Copperfield would be proud to pull off.

The difference in the two budgets simply reflects the fact that Community Mental Health has become its own authority for the upcoming fiscal year and isn’t included in the budget.

For this year, the county marked $90 million for CMH, and for next year’s budget that number is zero. So subtracting the $90 million from the $402.2 million FY03 budget leaves the county with a budget figure this year of $312.2 million, a number much closer to next year’s $326.3 million.

The budget does, however, contain red ink — a color that County Commissioner Harold Voorhees pointed out and criticized. Voorhees, a Republican representing the 9th District, was the only board member that did not ratify the budget because the General Fund has a $7.1 million shortfall and the entire budget carries an $11.9 million deficit, which includes the General Fund shortage.

Voorhees also didn’t think that the county should spend $250,000 on annual membership fees with the Grand Valley Metro Council because the agency doesn’t list its revenue sources and expenditure items on its Web site. He felt that information should be readily available to the public and until it is he couldn’t support the expenditure.

As mayor of Wyoming a decade ago, Voorhees opposed that city’s attempt to join the council and the city still isn’t a full member.

But Kent County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio, who sits on the council, told Voorhees that GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula plans to post that financial data in the future. Kent Chairman David Morren, who also represents the county on the council, added that GRTV televises GVMC meetings so residents can follow the money. Those Metro Council figures were also reported in the Business Journal a few weeks ago.

Delabbio and County Fiscal Services Director Robert White, who together compiled the budget report, expect the county’s property tax revenue to grow by 4.7 percent next year to $88.4 million for 2004. This source makes up nearly 48 percent of the General Fund revenue and almost 22 percent of the county’s total revenue.

Commissioner David Bulkowski, a Democrat who represents the west side of Grand Rapids, noted that the 2004 budget contains $8 million returned to the county from the CMH emergency services fund. He reminded board members the money is a one-time budget boost and wouldn’t be available in 2005.

To illustrate how the county has grown, in both population and services, the 1994 budget was $217 million, or roughly $110 million less than the 2004 budget. And the budget 10 years ago included funds for mental health.

The county’s fiscal year starts on Jan. 1. 

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