Kalamazoo balances city budget with ease, for now…

Jan 4, 2011

Kalamazoo has a new balanced budget in place…with no layoffs, tax increases or cuts to city services. City commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 budget plan Monday night.

Considering the city’s budget woes in the past, and compared to other cities now, Kalamazoo is in relatively good shape. Last year, the city cut 40 positions. Since 2000, the number of full time city workers has fallen from 900 to 753.

For now, Kalamazoo’s City Manager Kenneth P. Collard says there are a few factors helping their budget, besides the usual aggressive cost-cutting. One is lower than expected healthcare costs. Another is a good investment made in the 1980s that’s boosted the city’s pension fund. They also approved raising some fees.

Kalamazoo City Commissioner Barbara Miller joked with fellow board members before a unanimous vote to use money from the city’s still healthy savings account to cover the relatively small $3 million dollar deficit. “They’ve made it look easy. We’ve had no comments either time we’ve presented this. It must be perfect because no one’s complaining,” Miller chuckled.

But City Commissioner David Anderson warned fellow board members that despite their good planning, the future depends partly on how new leaders at the state level hash out Michigan’s budget over the coming months.

 “We also are going to have to continue to very carefully watch what it looks like for the city here, in a couple of years. As part of this budget we’re looking ahead and things do not look good for the City of Kalamazoo here a year or two out.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll unveil his state budget plan in a couple months.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell praised Collard and city employees, thanking them for their work.

“I’m going to challenge you as we continue to go through this that we’re going to need the best that you can bring even beyond what you’ve done today.”

Hopewell acknowledged balancing budgets in the future could become much more difficult. “But we’re going to move together and we’re going to do it together,” Hopewell assured them.