GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Upon its release Tuesday, City Manager Mark Washington said the new $597 million fiscal year 2023 preliminary city budgetwill “usher in a new era of progress.”
“Our dedicated workforce stands ready to usher in a new era of progress that will drive Grand Rapids toward our vision of being an equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative city with a robust economy, safe and healthy community, and the opportunity for a high quality of life for all,” said Washington. “We are committed to continuous improvement and innovation across our entire organization.”
If approved by commissioners during their upcoming May 24 meeting, the budget could take effect by July 1.
Among the notable line items are a $12,000 decrease to the Grand Rapids Police Department’s budget, down to 34.2% of the 2023 General Operating Fund from 38.6% of the city’s GOP for the FY2021.
The Office of Oversight and Public Accountability saw their budget more than double, climbing from $405,781 in the FY2021 budget, when the office was still in its infancy phase, to $1.7 million this time around.
“I’m really grateful for the additional funding,” said Brandon Davis, director of the OPA. “It will allow us to serve the community better; it’ll allow us to really do the work of increasing accountability and transparency.”
The allocation to OPA will allow them to hire an additional administrative staff member, conduct more community outreach programs and trainings — especially in the immigrant and refugee communities — and conduct additional training for police officers themselves, including cultural competency and de-escalation classes. The community will also have some say in future police trainings. Davis says he also wants to include a training specifically for immigrant and refugee members of the community so they can know their rights and the nuances between the American justice system compared to the justice system in their native nations.
The budget also stipulates that OPA will now have oversight of the procurement of the body cameras used by GRPD officers. OPA was given and additional $180,000 to find and secure the vital equipment, recently in the spotlight after the body camera of Officer Christopher Schurr was bumped off during a deadly struggle with Patrick Lyoya in early April.
“I definitely think it was necessary to add additional funding to the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability,” said Davis. “Listen, I’ve been saying for a long time that we’re a lean team, but we’re doing great work.”
Washington points out that many of the police department’s vital services, despite a cut in their actual funding number, aren’t disappearing — they’re just shifting to other community initiatives adjacent to public safety.
“There’s no reduction in essential services that the police department has provided last year versus this year; there’s no reduction in staffing,” he said. “We maintained the level of service in police, but we increased our investment in housing supportive services; we increased our investment in oversight; we’ve increased the investment in mental health co-response.”
The FY2023 budget would invest $700,000 in an enhanced mental health police co-response mobile crisis intervention team, offered by Network180, the city’s mental health partner organization. Officers would respond to mental health crises with licensed mental healthcare professionals. It also includes a long-awaited investment in Cure Violence, a non-traditional violence intervention program based on community relations and data.
Away from the public safety realm, for a second year, Grand Rapids gave say over millions in funding to residents in the wards where the money will actually go. Through the participatory budgeting process, Ward 1 is receiving $400,000, Ward 2 is receiving $600,000 and Ward 3 is receiving $1 million with the power on how to spend it in the hands of citizens.
“I want to hear from the community,” said Washington, when asked how he’d like to see community members use the funding. “I know there are a lot of needs. There are needs around economic development, needs around mobility, needs around housing, needs around community safety and community development. But this is a process where the community gets to develop their agenda.”
“The beauty of what we’re doing is we’re working in partnership with the community to determine what the needs of the community are, instead of just prescribing ‘this is what we need to do,’” said Davis.
Ward 3 — the most historically underfunded in the city — is also getting an additional $750,000 for the Third Ward Equity Fund to invest in housing and economic initiatives.
The budget also includes a 4% increase in income tax revenues in FY2023 and then a 3% increase each year for FY2024–FY2027. It also includes a 2% property tax millage rate reduction and proposes 1,663 authorized city positions for FY2023, which is approximately 300 fewer positions than 2002 staffing levels.
The FY2023 Preliminary Fiscal Plan review schedule is as follows:
- Tuesday, May 3: Introduction of the FY2023 Preliminary Fiscal Plan and Budget Review Workshop (9 a.m.)
- Tuesday, May 10: Budget Review Workshop (COW 10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, May 10: Budget Review Workshop (1 p.m.)
- Tuesday, May 17: City Commission Public Hearing (Budget and Fees; 7 p.m.)
- Tuesday, May 24: Budget Discussion and Deliberation (COW 10 a.m.)
- Tuesday, May 24: City Commission Adoption (7 p.m.)