Spending History of the City of Grand Rapids

After a recent post comparing Grand Rapids to Bemidji, the question was raised as to whether using the year 2011 was a providing us with a clear picture, or if the fiscal data for that year were just an anomaly. I did several hours of research and found the spending data for the City of Grand Rapids to report today.

I used the following resources from which to gather my information:
To make it easier to visualize I have included this simple chart. Below the chart I will go into more detail.


To further simplify the information so as to identify more easily the trends, I divided the 17 years of data into four sections, and then averaged these sections.
What I found was almost as clear as the above graph.
For the years of 1995-1999, the city spent an average of $11,701,027, or $1387.39 per capita.
For the years of 2000-2003, the city spent an average of $12,340,958, or $1559.96 per capita.
For the years of 2004-2007, the city spent an average of $17,124,874, or $1974.38 per capita.
For the years of 2008-2011, the city spent an average of $20,570,191, or $1961.52 per capita.

Whether looking at the chart or the text, the trend is unmistakeable. The total spending has increased dramatically. In fact, comparing the period of 1995-1999 with the period from 2008-2011, we find a 75.8% increase in the city’s overall spending.

I found some other facts while doing the research for this post which are equally disturbing.
The average per capita spending for Grand Rapids equals approximately 7.9% of the total per capita income for Grand Rapids, using Census Bureau data for a source. There it is recorded that the per capita income for Grand Rapids is $24,926.
The average ranking of Grand Rapids when compared to all other cities in Minnesota over the 17 years of records on the State Auditor’s site was 21st. That means, on the average, only 20 cities in the entire State of Minnesota outspent Grand Rapids in this category, even though Grand Rapids only ranked 102nd among the cities in Minnesota in per capita income.
According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of people below the poverty level in Grand Rapids was 12.5%, while the percentage for the whole state of Minnesota was 11.2%. The level of poverty was 10% higher in Grand Rapids!
Again based on Census Bureau reports, the private non-farm employment fell 1% in Itasca County in 2010-2011. The data for the city itself was not included in my sources. For the same time period the private non-farm employment for the rest of the state rose 1.5%.

The City of Grand Rapids spent about $881 per person in the last four years on record than in the 1990’s. That reflects a 41.4% increase in per capita spending, and a 75.8% increase in overall spending.
What would you have done if you had $881 more this year? What have you done without because you didn’t have this money?
Would you have spent the money on the same things that the city spent it on?
Have you seen a significant improvement in Grand Rapids caused by this spending increase?
Is there a correlation between the elevated level of spending, and the corresponding higher taxes, to the elevated levels of unemployment and poverty in Grand Rapids when compared to the rest of the state?
Please comment with your answers to some of the questions we have raised.

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