Grand Rapids to build a dashboard

May 27, 2011
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Grand Rapids city commissioners allocated $79,600 last week to build a website dashboard in hopes the online presence will help the city qualify for about $1 million in state revenue-sharing money that would come from the “best practices” challenge Gov. Rick Snyder issued to municipalities earlier this year.

The funds to build the site will come from the IT department; Springthrough will develop the SharePoint Dashboard for the city. Work is to begin immediately and hopefully be done in September. The dashboard will measure the city’s financial performance and offer residents a guide to the city’s finances. “You’ll be able to track every project we have, including dollars invested and dollars saved,” said Tom Almonte, assistant to the city manager, Greg Sundstrom.

Springthrough is a Grand Rapids company that specializes in Microsoft business applications. The firm is headed by President and CEO Mike Williams, who was featured in the Jan. 10 issue of the Business Journal. The company’s office is on Oak Industrial Drive NE.

Kent County unveiled its new dashboard May 23.

Last week, commissioners also approved a labor agreement with the Grand Rapids Independent Employees Union, which represents more than 500 non-uniformed city workers. The three-year contract, which is retroactive to July 1, calls for pension concessions and a 20 percent contribution to health insurance premiums but doesn’t affect current wages. The agreement has been estimated to reduce the total compensation for GRIEU members by 8.2 percent through July 1, 2013.

“It was great to get that on the agenda and get it ratified,” said Commissioner David Schaffer.

Commissioners also accepted salary reductions at last week’s meeting. Based on a report filed by the Local Officers Compensation Commission, the six city commissioners’ pay will fall from $22,496 a year to $21,776. Mayor George Heartwell’s salary will drop from $39,141 to $37,888. The decreases amount to a cut of 3.2 percent.

“We had requested that the commission reduce our wages by 3.2 percent. They honored it. We don’t take action on it. It automatically becomes our wages,” said Heartwell.

Comptroller Donijo DeJonge’s pay will be reduced by 26 percent, from $72,000 to $53,200. DeJonge felt her salary should have been cut in half. Earlier this year, she claimed that the position’s pay was too high.

“I am disappointed that the compensation commission did not go along with her request and reduce her pay in half,” said Commissioner Walt Gutowski.

Schaffer asked if the compensation commission, which meets every two years to determine wages for elected officials, could reconvene and reconsider the comptroller’s pay level. City Attorney Catherine Mish said state law doesn’t allow for that; it only lets the panel meet once in odd-numbered years.

“The wage reduction is the largest we would have received from any employees, unionized or not,” said Sundstrom.

The last pay hike the city’s elected officials received was in fiscal year 2002. The cuts go into effect with arrival of the next fiscal year on July 1 and last for two years. Board members who are covered by the city’s health care plan also agreed last year to pay a higher portion of their health insurance premiums.

Commissioners adopted regulations that will require employers with at least 250 employees and all payroll service providers to file W-2 information electronically beginning Jan. 1, in a format that will be approved by city Income Tax Administrator John Schaut.

Schaut sent his proposal requiring electronic submission to the Tax and Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce for feedback. “I am pleased to report that they issued a statement of support for the proposed regulation,” he said.

The city will hold public hearings on its proposed tax levy and the FY 2012 budget June 14 at Sibley Elementary School, 943 Sibley St. NW. The city wants to raise its property tax levy from 8.3711 mills to 8.3713 mills, which works out to be $8.37 per $1,000 of taxable value, or roughly the same amount as last year. State law allows the city to levy 9.3422 mills, or $9.34 per $1,000 of taxable value.

City CFO Scott Buhrer said the slight increase would give the city another $50,000 in revenue, and even with the small hike, the average property tax bill in the city would drop because of lower taxable values. Buhrer said the average tax bill in the city will be $399.34 this summer, which will be down from $411.53 last year. The hearing is set for 7 p.m.

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