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Grand Rapids leaders approve nearly $600 million budget

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

City commissioners in Grand Rapids approved a budget totaling $597,859,508 in spending last night.

The budget will take effect starting July 1. It represents a spending increase of nearly 10% compared to the current budget. Much of the increase in funds comes from the American Rescue Plan. The city is also anticipating an increase in property taxes.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said she’s used to approving budgets that don’t fund as much as she’d like, but this one was different.

“I have to say that this budget captures most, if not almost all of the priorities that I have talked about, and many of you have talked about around this table,” Bliss said to fellow commissioners during a morning meeting Tuesday.

Those priorities included increased funding for affordable housing, for mental health support for emergency calls, and to expand the city’s police oversight office.

Commissioners also adopted amendments to the budget that were added Tuesday, which increased funding for the city’s 3rd ward, and offered funding for the African and Black Expo in the city, among other things.

The budget also includes an overall increase in spending for the city’s police department. The share of the police department’s budget that comes from the general operating fund will decrease by about $12,000, but that shortfall will be more than made up through other grants, including one from the federal Department of Justice, according to the city’s budget documents.

During meetings earlier this month discussing the budget, many activists continued to call for defunding the Grand Rapids Police Department, or at least scaling it back.

“I just want to urge you guys to reconsider your budget and to see where there are areas where you may be able to reallocate resources towards those root causes that lead to what we might think are reasons for extra policing,” said Eric Brown, the head of the Grand Rapids Urban League.

On Tuesday morning, Commissioner Joe Jones — who previously led the Urban League — said he believed the final budget addressed those issues.

“I know there’s no magic solution,” Jones said. “There’s no one organization or institution that can address these on their own, but I do believe that this budget looks to address the things that we can control.”

Commissioners formally approved the budget at a meeting Tuesday evening. But during that meeting, much of the attention from residents continued to be on the police killing of Patrick Lyoya. Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker is still weighing whether to pursue criminal charges against the officer who shot Lyoya. A number of residents called for the officer’s arrest at Tuesday’s meeting.

And ultimately, the mayor ended the meeting early after a number of disruptions during the public comments.

More information on the budget is available on the city's website here.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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