WSW: The Foundation For Excellence, An Experiment For Cash-Strapped Cities

Sep 10, 2017

File photo
Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

The city of Kalamazoo’s coordinator for the new Foundation for Excellence says it’s “an experiment” in the best possible sense of the word.

Steve Brown the city’s Resource Specialist for the Foundation for Excellence says the municipal finance system is broken, and a new approach is needed. However, Brown tells WMUK’s Gordon Evans that Kalamazoo is not trying to be a model right now. He says the current goal is to get the foundation up and running. But Brown says in the future “it would be fantastic if we started getting calls from different cities” to discuss what works. 

"It would be fantastic if we started getting calls from different cities."

In late August, the Kalamazoo City Commission approved forming the Foundation for Excellence. The necessary documents were signed a few days later. Brown says that means that “we can really get down to the nitty gritty and do the work that we’re tasked to do.” Among the things that still have to done is forming a board. The Mayor and City Manager will be two of the members. Brown says sometime this fall there should be more information about positions available on the 15-member board. He says it will be a combination of representatives of various sectors such as business, healthcare and neighborhoods.

The foundation is seeking $500-million to create an endowment for city projects. Brown says the City Commission will have the final say on how money is spent. But he says the idea is to align the city’s goals with the foundation. Bill Johnston and Bill Parfet will be co-chairs of the foundation’s campaign to raise $500-million. The two men made an initial $70-million donation to stabilize the city’s budget for the next three years, and pay for a property tax cut. Brown says the city will support the campaign, but he says they don’t want to compete with existing foundations, which are also raising money.