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kalamazoo city commission

Downtown Kalamazoo.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The city of Kalamazoo will now have more money at its disposal -- half a billion dollars more.

The Kalamazoo City Commission last night approved a gift from a private foundation that will replace a portion of the city’s budget.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the Foundation for Excellence can be very important to the city's future.

"Perfection's not here, but I know we worked hard to cover the gamut of issues that may come up in the future," Hopewell said. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo City Commissioners voted Monday night in support of a public-private partnership they hope will stabilize the budget, lower property taxes and fund “aspirational projects” as early as next year.

The donation comes from two local businessmen and philanthropists. Both have ties to the Kalamazoo-based medical device manufacturing giant Stryker Corporation. One is heir to the Upjohn Company.

They’re offering the major donation to help stabilize Kalamazoo’s budget. The city was considering an income tax to help close a deficit.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell
Kalamazoo Public Library

Kalamazoo has struggled with balancing its budget, and finding enough money to invest in new programs.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell wants to accept a private donation of $70 million to help balance the city’s budget, and partner with those donors to set up a foundation where other philanthropists can donate even more money.

Then, the city would be able to lean on those donated funds to pay for city services in the future.

Downtown Kalamazoo.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Last week, City Commissioner Matt Milcarek joined Stateside to talk about his reservations about a $70 million gift and future private money that the city of Kalamazoo received to help fund city services. It’s called the Foundation for Excellence.

Milcarek expressed his concern about whether city government should be so reliant on private donations, and whether city employees would feel answerable to the people and their elected representatives or to the wealthy donors on whom the city might depend.

Other commission members support accepting the gift and the additional hundreds of millions of dollars to follow. David Anderson is one of them and he joined Stateside to explain his view.

Downtown Kalamazoo.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

As soon as next week, the details of the Foundation for Excellence's $70 million gift will be presented to the Kalamazoo City Commission

The city manager and the mayor have been working with the donors to determine how it will work. 

Some city commissioners have been expressing reservations about the gift since it was announced this summer. Matt Milcarek​ is one of them.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo City Commission will consider selling bonds to help cover part of its retiree health care costs tonight. 

City officials are considering a proposal to sell nearly $91 million in bonds to cover part the city’s legacy health care costs.    

Jacob Enos / Creative Commons

Some residents and business owners in Kalamazoo want tighter restrictions on where people can panhandle. The city says the proposed changes come in response to just a few people who are “aggressive and intrusive” around the Kalamazoo Mall and Bronson Park.

Tonight, commissioners will consider an amendment that outlines the “right to be left alone” – making it illegal to ask for spare change from anyone sitting outside on a restaurant patio or on a bench at a public park.

ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin believes a judge would find the amendment unconstitutional.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

While all the attention on the November election has centered on statewide races for governor and Congress, there are other issues on the ballot.

Voters in several Michigan cities are being asked to make changes to their city charters in next month’s election.

For example, Kalamazoo voters are being asked if they want to make major changes to their roughly century-old city charter.

Kalamazoo voters elect their city commissioners every two years. The top vote-getter serves as mayor.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

On Monday, the Kalamazoo City Commission is scheduled to vote on its city budget.

The budget plan commissioners will vote on reflects Kalamazoo’s basic problem: rising legacy costs.

Much of the more than $2 million budget gap is due to the increasing costs of retiree health care.

The budget covers much of the gap with one-time funding. That means a longer term solution will have to be found.