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Kalamazoo City Commission approves new city budget, including fee increases

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo city residents will be paying a little more to the city.

The city commission approved a new city budget last night that includes significant fee increases.

Last night, Kalamazoo city commissioners voted 5 to 2 to approve the  144 million dollar city budget.   

Vice Mayor Hannah McKinney voted for the budget.   She called the budget plan “scary”, as the city continues to reduce its workforce.

“At some point you can cut anymore police officers…you can’t cut any more building inspectors…we’re going to reach that point pretty soon here…and then what?" McKinney asked during the city commission meeting. 

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell voted against the budget plan.  He says the commission should have had a broader discussion about the city’s budget problems before instituting a 1% administrative fee on city tax collections, which one commissioner called the city’s last "tool."

“I understand that it’s not a large amount," Hopewell told his fellow commissioners last night, "But if this is our last tool…how have we not had those conversations before we got where we ended up using out last item.”

Hopewell blames declining state revenue sharing dollars for some of Kalamazoo’s money woes.

Commissioner Don Cooney voted for the budget plan, though he conceded the plan doesn’t solve Kalamazoo’s budget problems.

“As we look ahead, this is not a one year blip….these are problems that are going to go on…down the line." says Cooney. 

Cooney suggested the city should seriously look at possibly consolidating some government services with the county to save money.

Setting the city of Kalamazoo's future direction will be a task for a future city manager.  Kalamazoo's current city manager is leaving the city later this year.  He's one of dozens of city employees taking advantage of an early retirement incentive intended to reduce the city's payroll. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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