City Hopes Public-Private Plan Will Turn Its Fortunes Around

Oct 24, 2016

The City Commission held its meeting on the budget proposal at Kalamazoo Valley Community College's Anna Whitten Hall.
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

The City of Kalamazoo has approved a groundbreaking proposal that it hopes will put an end to years of financial struggle.

On Monday commissioners voted 6 to 1 to accept a $70 million private donation to the city. That’ll fix the budget for three years while allowing for a major – approximately 37 percent – cut in property taxes.

Meanwhile the city must try to build an endowment to permanently fund its operations.

Commissioner Jack Urban says the plan comes with very high stakes, since a failure to fund that foundation would cause taxes to jump back up.

“So if we go down this path, we have to make it work. I want people to understand on this side of the table and on that side of the table, it is going to take a lot of effort,” he said on Monday.

The city says it wants to reduce rampant poverty in Kalamazoo, especially for children. Commissioner Shannon Sykes says that will take commitment.

“If it’s not solved, we keep going. I don’t ever want us to get to a point where it’s like, ‘well you know we’ve put so much money into that community, and they just can’t get it,’ you know what I mean? I don’t want us to get to that point,” she says.

The city needs to raise about $500 million to fully fund an endowment, tentatively named the Foundation for Excellence. It plans to start fundraising in January. The deadline to raise the money is June of 2019.