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Grand Rapids city, schools, search for new ways to save money

Eric DeLong says teaming up to purchase office supplies could save both entities money, "We both use a whole lot of paper."
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Eric DeLong says teaming up to purchase office supplies could save both entities money, "We both use a whole lot of paper."

Grand Rapids city and school district officials have met regularly for more than a decade to come up with ways to share services and facilities to benefit one another. Now, state budget concernsare pressuring them to look even harder for those cost-saving solutions.

Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong lists nearly a dozen ways they already cooperate. They share buildings, offer joint community education classes, work to preserve neighborhood parks, coordinate election polling, launched Our Community’s Children, and a have school safety partnership.

“We’ve always worked together but the times now demand even greater cooperation whenever we can do it.”

DeLong is working with Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Deputy Superintendent Lisa Freiburger on the effort. Freiburger says cuts Grand Rapids Public Schools faces a $25 million budget shortfall if cuts proposed by Governor Rick Snyder’s are adopted by state lawmakers.

“We need to be focused, we need to be mindful of the taxpayer resources that we have and we need to do our best on a continual basis to look for savings where we can find them.”

DeLong notes that same budget proposal also eliminates a huge chunk of revenue that cities across the state share. 

“There’s that economic reason, there’s the reason to do it because it’s the right thing to do, and there’s reason to do it because we’re great partners and we’re better together.”

DeLong and Freiburger will focus on 2 or 3 ideas they can implement quickly and have the most impact.

Potential future collaboration the group will explore

  • Stringing city’s fiber loop so GRPS can gain access
  • Financial management systems and/or leadership officials
  • Purchasing office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper and other supplies in bulk
  • Joint legislative lobbying efforts
  • Health insurance pool for non-instructional staff
  • Sharing grounds maintenance, particularly where the two have adjoining properties
Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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