City’s New Strategic Priorities Drive FY2020 Preliminary Fiscal Plan

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PRESS RELEASE — City Manager Mark Washington presented the Fiscal Year 2020 Preliminary Fiscal Plan this morning to the City Commission.
The proposed $563,094,776 spending plan is lower than last year’s plan and maintains essential City services, strengthens the organization’s ability to implement its strategic priorities and ensures financial stability. The proposed general operating fund portion of the budget increased to $148,934,792.  

The proposed spending plan is focused on advancing the outcomes outlined in the City’s new Strategic Plan to ensure measurable improvements across each of the six priority areas: economic prosperity and affordability, mobility, safe community, health and environment, governmental excellence, and engaged and connected community.

“The investment recommendations in this proposed budget will help elevate quality of life through excellent City services and further our strategic priorities,” Washington said. “We are confident that having a strategic plan that guides our investments will help us fulfill our vision to be nationally recognized as an equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative city with a robust economy, safe and healthy community and the opportunity for a high-quality life for all.”  

Washington pointed to the city’s economic growth over the past years, saying it allowed the organization to grow its reserves, make important capital investments – Vital Streets, parks, pools and playgrounds, Grand River restoration, tree maintenance and transit shelters – and tackle community initiatives such as housing affordability, community-police relations, equity  and the City’s long-term liabilities.

He also outlined the proposed investments for the six strategic priority areas, many of which will ensure the delivery of services that will result in equitable outcomes across the city. The proposed budget calls for more than $3.25 million in operational investments across all six strategic priority areas to achieve services with equitable outcomes. Capital investments in the city’s Neighborhoods of Focus – 17 Census tracts that have concentrated poverty and unemployment – total $25 million of the $71 million in location-specific capital projects. There also is $750,000 in the Third Ward Equitable Development Fund slated for spending during FY2020. 

Operating and capital investments recommended in FY2020 include:

Economic prosperity and affordability investments that include:

  • Acquiring staff resources to increase housing supply and directly manage the Affordable Housing Fund
  • Launching a pilot program to increase business development and retention in Grand Rapids focused on small businesses and retail 
  • Continuing the City’s commitment to the Grand River and Lyon Square restoration projects
  • Partnering on a pilot program for restroom facilities in the Heartside neighborhood for individuals who are experiencing homelessness

“These recommendations align with our commitment to provide high-quality services to businesses and entrepreneurs as well as to plan for the future,” Washington said. “They support continued private investment, employment and population growth, and equitable economic development.” 

Mobility investments that include: 

  • Increasing investments in the expanded DASH downtown shuttle service and fare-less service on The Rapid’s bus Route 19 and Silver Line
  • Launching a pilot program that demonstrates the cost and impact of 100 miles of winter sidewalk maintenance services
  • Continuing investments in Vital Streets, parking expansion and facility upgrades, replacement DASH vehicles and transit stops, including 50 new shelters and improvements to 100 transit stops
  • Maintaining the City’s transportation network through 61 Vital Streets projects covering 31 miles
  • Supporting 500 to 800 more parking spaces downtown 

“Through our voter-approved Vital Streets investments, we are achieving the critical value of building community – not just streets,” Washington said. “Our approach has evolved to focus on pedestrians, individuals with disabilities and cyclists. We are wrestling with parking demand for today in a rapidly expanding economy while working to imagine and plan for a future in which parking needs may be different. There is $22 million in new investments to improve mobility.”

Safe community investments that include:

  • Redeploying five police officers to operations and creating an evening shift for community policing services by adding three civilians and two officers and redeploying three officers
  • Adding two crime analysts who can help with technology, analytical and administrative support in solving crimes, a crisis intervention and behavioral health specialist, and a senior-level position in the Executive Office to focus on public safety community relations and accountability
  • Investing in a one-year pilot of an evidence-based violence reduction program
  • Increasing support for the 61st District Court to sustain justice services
  • Upgrading traffic signals, improving intersection safety and acquiring police vehicles and fire apparatus and equipment

“We are proposing significant investments to improve community safety,” Washington said. “Many of these recommendations are consistent with the recent police staffing and deployment study and they form the base for future transitions and investments under the guidance of our new police chief. 

“Public safety is an important part of a growing community, and the fact that about 60 percent of the general operating fund is devoted to police and fire services is an indication of our commitment to keeping our community safe.”

Health and environment investments that include:

  • Protecting and preserving water resources by continuing the phased implementation of stormwater investments, starting the first phases of work required to relocate the Coldbrook pumping station, replacing 5 percent of all private lead water service lines, continuing asset management investments at the City’s Lake Michigan Filtration Plant and Water Resource Recovery Facility, and upgrading water and sewer infrastructure in conjunction with Vital Streets projects
  • Upgrading the lighting in all 30 City-owned and operated neighborhood parking lots to LED
  • Continuing improvements to 13 City-owned parks as well as pools and playgrounds as part of the voter-approved parks millage
  • Acquiring park land in the Third Ward  and improving the Martin Luther King Jr. Park lodge
  • Investing in a non-motorized trail for the Hastings Street NE connector

“There are $57 million in capital projects that will maintain our high-quality drinking water and enhance our stormwater and flood control as well as help us continue to make steady progress in restoring and maintaining our parks system,” Washington said. 

Governmental excellence investments that include:

  • Increasing technology to maintain credit card compliance for financial transactions
  • Improving street lighting
  • Continuing asset management investments to maintain City buildings and facilities
  • Restoring the Calder Plaza sculpture La Grand Vitesse
  • Starting to scope out the community master plan
  • Expanding the recruitment of entry-level positions by creating opportunities and reducing barriers to employment in historically underrepresented trade areas
  • Providing equity and leadership training for more City employees

“We need talented employees, great technology, good facilities, equitable services, fiscal resiliency and efficient processes to support our commitment to elevating our community’s quality of life,” Washington said. 

Engaged and connected community investments that include:

  • Adding e-poll book laptops and absentee voter ballot tabulators to improve election experiences
  • Surveying the community on its perception of City services, events, programs and facilities
  • Upgrading community cable television equipment and investing in closed captioning
  • Increasing investments in the Neighborhood Match Fund
  • Preparing for the 2020 Census

“We are committed to strengthening our communications and engagement efforts to ensure everyone in our community has access to their local government,” Washington said.

The City Commission will hear presentations on the preliminary fiscal plan through mid-May. The sessions will be open to the public and will take place in the ninth-floor Commission Chambers at City Hall, 300 Monroe Ave. NW. Validated parking will be available in the Government Center Ramp accessible from Ottawa and Monroe avenues. The sessions will be streamed live on the City’s Facebook and YouTube pages and broadcast live on the Grand Rapids Information Network (Comcast Channel 26).

The schedule, including the topics, will be:

9 a.m. to noon April 30 – Health and environment, governmental excellence, engaged and connected community

9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, May 7 – Equity, capital, economic prosperity and affordability, mobility and safe community

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 14 – Committee of the Whole discussion on the fiscal plan

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 – Public hearing on the fiscal plan

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 21 – Committee of the Whole deliberations 

7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 – City Commission adoption of the FY2020 Fiscal Plan

9 a.m. to noon Thursday, May 23 – If needed

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