The City of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has announced a plan to create a Foundation for Excellence, a public-private partnership that will appeal to local donors to help resolve the city’s ongoing budget crisis.
The foundation, which has already secured a commitment of more than $70 million over three years from William Johnston and William Parfet, will be funded by area philanthropists, institutions, and other individuals. The infusion of cash will enable the city to stabilize its budget and reduce property taxes by more than a third starting in January. If fully subscribed, it also will enable the city to spend $10 million more than previously budgeted in each of the next three years on programs for youth, ending generational poverty, placemaking projects, streets and infrastructure, targeted economic development, and other initiatives.
Town officials pledged that the additional funding would be solicited from a broad donor base and that the elected city officials would direct the funds without donor input. City Commissioner Shannon Sykes told MLive.com she is skeptical that that will be the case. "[Donations] really have [to have] no strings attached, otherwise we’re not doing our duty by the citizens," Sykes told MLive.
Although a 2015 task force failed to identify additional revenue options for the cash-strapped city, many residents have expressed similar concerns while remaining cautiously optimistic. "We can live with [the fear and mistrust we’re feeling]," said Kalamazoo resident Dana Underwood. "Let's not turn our back on what an incredible opportunity this money and this set-up means because we are afraid of what's going on."