Nine Vows Grand Rapids Will Make on $4 Million Parks Tax

City voters on Nov. 5 will consider a proposal to increase property tax and designate the revenue for Grand Rapids parks. But would the estimated $4 million annual intake just replace what the city already spends on parks?

No, according to a list of “investment guidelines” up for Grand Rapids City Commission review Tuesday, Sept. 24. The document makes nine promises about what the city would do if voters approve the 0.98-mill, 7-year tax:

  • The city “shall continue to pay for the existing fiscal year 2014 base level of park mowing, restroom cleaning, trash collection, sidewalk and parking lot snow plowing, utility costs and other current expenditures identified as basic activities,” and maintain current levels of parks and recreation staffing.
  • Any future reduction in general-fund money for parks may be no more than the percentage of the city’s overall budget cut. In other words, parks can’t take the brunt of any general-fund budget cut.
  • Any future increase in the city’s general-fund budget will necessitate a proportionate increase in parks funding.
  • The city will spend 45 to 55 percent of parks millage revenue on park rehabilitation and repair, 25 to 35 percent on park improvements and 15 to 20 percent to operate city swimming pools.
  • All planning for capital investments using parks millage money shall involve citizen or neighborhood residents.
  • The city’s parks board must review all proposed spending of parks millage revenue and City Commission must approve all parks millage spending.
  • The parks millage fund will be audited separately and spending will be reported to the parks board, to City Commission and get posted to city’s Web site.
  • The parks millage will be subject to payments for services rendered by other city departments and to overhead shared by other city departments.
  • Any additional money spent on parks – other than from the parks millage or the city’s general fund – “shall be considered the same as the city’s general operating fund support.”

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