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Kalamazoo to vote on budget with no major cuts to police

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Kalamazoo city commissioners are set to vote on a $214 million budget at a meeting Tuesday.

The proposed budget includes spending that’s about 5% higher than last year.

And it includes more than $32 million for the Public Safety Department. That’s only slightly less than than year before, despite loud calls for defunding the department.

David Benac is one resident who spoke out against the Public Safety Department budget during a hearing earlier this month.

“It’s a department that is so deeply flawed the city had to fire the chief and then hide that it was fired and make excuses,” Benac said.

Former Kalamazoo public safety chief Karianne Thomas was fired in September, following the department’s response to a violent demonstration by a far-right hate group in the city.

Others said the proposed budget doesn’t go far enough to deal with a growing housing crisis.

According to a presentation from the city, the budget includes $750,000 to help people experiencing homelessness, and more than $2 million to encourage affordable housing developments.

“This is one area I believe the city wants to do the right the thing, and has helped several individuals obtain or stay in their homes last year,” said resident Joe Byers, who also spoke during the public hearing on the budget. “But once again leadership failed to realize the size and scope of the help that is really needed.”

Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed budget during a virtual meeting starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday. By city charter, the budget has to be approved by February 1st

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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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