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Community updates: Thursday, April 29

City of Grand Rapids releases proposed 2022 budget plan; The Rapid switching to summer service schedule; Gov. Whitmer announces 'MI Vacc to Normal' plan for relaxing state’s COVID-19 restrictions; and more.
Downtown Grand Rapids, facing northeast.

Downtown Grand Rapids, facing northeast. /Experience Grand Rapids

City of Grand Rapids releases proposed 2022 budget plan

The City of Grand Rapids released its proposed budget plan for the 2022 fiscal year on Tuesday, relying on federal aid to help offset city revenue lost because of the pandemic.

The plan currently runs $546 million to continue current service levels and meet financial obligations for existing contractual agreements. Presented by City Manager Mark Washington as a “continuation budget,” it also aids in pandemic response and economic recovery.

FY22, starting July 1, currently sees 29 percent of its budget – $156 million – going to the general operating fund portion of the city’s budget. This includes public safety, health and human services, and public works.

The city estimates $36 million in lost General Fund income tax revenues between FY21 and FY22 because of a pandemic-related reduction in local income taxes. It cited workers laid off or furloughed during shutdowns and non-residents who worked from home. Local income taxes account for 70 percent of General Fund revenues on average, according to the city.

Despite projected income tax shortfalls, funding through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will enable the city to sustain services in the current fiscal year and supports future budgets through FY25. It expects to receive $94 million in relief through the ARPA over the next two fiscal years.

City Manager Washington noted that drastic cost reduction measures for the city have been avoided to date, such as service reductions, significant increases to fees, and staff layoffs. He attributes this to the city’s financial position prior to the pandemic and federal relief funding. The city previously decreased spending by $22 million last year when the pandemic began, with the adoption of its FY21 budget.

Our city government’s resilience in the face of these challenges is due to the undaunted spirit of our community, commitment and adaptability of the city workforce, robust collaboration with our partners, and to the foresight of our strategy and existing plans,” said Washington. “While pivoting and prioritizing were necessary, the soundness of our Strategic Plan has been confirmed by the challenge of COVID-19. We are stronger and more capable as a result.”

Community members will be able to share feedback on the proposed FY22 budget plan during Washington and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss' virtual town hall next Thursday, May 6. The two leaders will discuss the city's budget and services in response to COVID-19. It takes place 6-7pm on the city’s Facebook page, and broadcasts on its Government Access Channel, Comcast channel 26.

The City Commission will continue to review the proposed budget plan during work sessions the next three Tuesdays. It votes on the plan May 20.

The current FY22 budget proposal is viewable on the city's website.


The Rapid switches to summer service schedule May 10

The Rapid transit service is transitioning to its summer service schedule on May 10, it announced Wednesday.

The new schedule will provide more early morning and evening service on weekdays.

Among changes are 17 routes beginning service at 5:15am on weekdays: Routes 1, 2, 4-6, 8-12 and 15. Routes 7 and 16 will start at 5:30am on weekdays, and Routes 3, 13, and 14 at 6:15am. 14 routes will run later on weekdays until 10:15pm: Routes 1-6 and 8-15.

The Rapids’ Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) system will now operate on weekdays from 7am-8:30pm. DASH service will no longer operate on Saturdays.

“We’re excited to be able to expand current service and increase options for our customers,” The Rapid CEO Deb Prato said. “Transit has such a critical role to play in pandemic recovery, and we will continue to provide our community with an accessible, reliable network of mobility options.”

Last month, The Rapid began a free shuttle service for the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic, located in DeVos Place. The shuttle provides service to the Gerald R. Ford Museum’s north and south parking lots, which are overflow parking for COVID-19 vaccine patients, with a drop-off and pick-up stop in front of DeVos Place.

A full list of The Rapids' summer service changes are available on its website.


Gov. Whitmer announces 'MI Vacc to Normal' plan for relaxing state’s COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced a new roadmap for the state’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions, linking state vaccination rates to future epidemic orders by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Called ‘MI Vacc to Normal,’ the plan lays out four vaccination-based milestones that, once reached, enable the MDHHS to adjust its pandemic-related orders. The milestones use data for Michiganders 16 years or older who've received their first vaccine dose.

“The ‘MI Vacc to Normal’ challenge outlines steps we can take to emerge from this pandemic as we hit our vaccination targets together," said Whitmer. “On our path to vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe.”

The vaccination-based milestones are:

  • 55 percent of Michiganders (4,453,304 residents), plus two weeks:
  • Allows in-person work for all sectors of business.
  • 60 percent of Michiganders (4,858,150 residents), plus two weeks:
  • Increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls, and funeral homes to 25 percent.
  • Increases capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50 percent.
  • Lifts the curfew on restaurants and bars.
  • 65 percent of Michiganders (5,262,996 residents), plus two weeks:
  • Lifts all indoor capacity limits, requiring only physical distancing between parties.
  • Further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings.
  • 70 percent of Michiganders (5,667,842 residents), plus two weeks:
  • Lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order such that MDHHS will no longer employ broad mitigation measures unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.

As of Thursday, Michigan has administered 6.7 million vaccines, according to the MDHHS. 48.8 percent of Michiganders 16 and older have received at least one dose, with 35.9 percent of the state’s 16 and older population being fully vaccinated.

"The safe and effective vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the MDHHS’ Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy for Health. "By getting shots in their arms as soon as possible, Michiganders can protect themselves, their families, and their communities, and help end this pandemic as quickly as possible."

More details about the state’s ‘MI Vacc to Normal’ plan are available on its website.


Grand Rapids Public Schools refrains from expanding high school in-person learning to four days a week

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) last Friday made the decision not to expand in-person learning for high schoolers to four days a week, after considering doing so starting this week.

In-person learning days for GRPS’ K-8th graders expanded to four on Monday, after K-12th graders not part of the district’s virtual-only option had only been in-person two days a week since Jan. 19.

GRPS based its decision for high schoolers on pandemic-related data and guidance from the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). The KCHD did not approve a new three-feet physical distancing measure for high schoolers, which prevented GRPS from combining students currently in-person on alternating days and maintaining six-feet distance, according to the district.

While we know this decision may be frustrating for some, since the beginning of the pandemic, we have clearly and consistently shared that our decisions would be based on the science, data, and guidance from the [KCHD],” GRPS said in an April 23 statement.

All learning models currently in place for GRPS students will remain so through the rest of the semester, barring any significant changes in the area’s pandemic conditions. The district’s current school year ends on June 9.


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