We finally got the numbers for 2012 which the City of Grand Rapids turned in to the State Auditor. The numbers can be found at the Auditor’s City Search site. As I did last time, I will comment on some of the changes below the table. Here is the table comparing the City’s finances between the years of 2011 and 2012:
The first notable change is the tax capacity. To simplify, this reflects the value of the city. In 2011, the tax capacity was $9,205,988. In 2012, the capacity had gone done to $8,161,429. This was an 11.3% drop in value.
The tax levy went up by 2.9% and the property overall property tax went down by 5.9%. This doesn’t sound bad, especially if the focus is kept on the property tax, until we read further down the table to see what happened in other areas.
Special assessments in 2011 were $1,063,987. In 2012 they went up by 45.3% to $1,546,363. That’s about $150 per person, if it were spread out over everyone. How much did you pay for special assessments?
Charges for services is another area which increased drastically. The City collected $2,415,698 in 2011, but $3,662,886 in 2012. A 51.6% increase which lifted Grand Rapids to 4th place among all of the cities in the state. This is more than $360 per person.How much did you get charged for services, compared to the previous year? Were you aware that these charges are not simply to pay for the services, but are put in to the budget?
Here’s the worst of this section: In 2012, the City borrowed $7,397,605. Well over $700 per person. This is over and above the revenue collected. You’ll see the importance of this in a moment.
The 2012 expenses all look favorable in comparison to 2011, with the total expenditures actually dropping by about $1.6 million. But let’s look deeper.
In 2012, the revenue collected plus the revenue borrowed was $24,728,469. The total expenditures were $21,510,104. Why did we borrow $3,218,365 more than was necessary to make expenses? What was that money used for?
In 2012, the City spent $4,179,240 more than the revenue received before borrowing. The 2012 debt service was $4,178,506. These numbers are an awful lot alike. Coincidence?
Our special assessments and charges for services went up significantly, as did our borrowing, and our debt service is still over $4 million per year. $400+ per person. This is just for the City of Grand Rapids. Had it not been for the debt service, our expenses would have been $17,331,598, almost exactly the same as our revenue without borrowing.
If the value of the City continues to decline, and we continue the pattern of borrowing, taxing, and spending, what will be left in the future? The City spent nearly $2000 per person in 2012. That is your money. How much better would your life have been if you could have kept a portion of that money to spend on what you needed, rather than allowing the City to spend it on what it wanted?