The Kentwood Rotary Club hosted the State of the City Address with Mayor Steve Kepley Tuesday at the Ramada Inn on 28th Street. Mayor Kepley was pleased to announce that the State of Kentwood is economically strong, vibrant and growing with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Michigan.
Kepley says the city is seeing large multi-million dollar investments by companies interested in moving into Kentwood, creating more jobs. As a result, the mayor says property values are going up and Kentwood is “open for business!”
The city is also proud to be ranked as having one of the highest quality road systems in West Michigan. Kepley credits it to the success of the city’s asset road management plan. However, the mayor warns that the plan is expected to run out of money in the next several years, jeopardizing the quality of the current system. As a result, he is encouraging citizens to be informed about the passage of Proposal 1 this May.
Proposal 1 raises the sales tax and gets rid of the gas tax in favor of a wholesale tax on fuel. It is expected to generate more than a billion dollars a year for roads and even more money for education and local government. The state estimates it will cost 1.2 billion dollars to fix state roads long-term. Mayor Kepley says that because the state money isn’t there, it’s up to Michigan voters to decide if Proposal 1 will provide the needed revenue to fix the roads.
To help fully understand how the proposal with help roads, Mayor Kepley says he’s willing to do presentations to Kentwood community and senior groups who request it. Interested individuals can contact the mayor’s office for details.
In other news, Mayor Kepley was pleased to announce changes to the city’s long-term debt. “Every municipality has a time when expenses surpass income. For the City of Kentwood that years was 2018. The keyword here is ‘was’,” Kepley told audience.
“Through the efforts of our staff this past year, we implemented changes to our long-term debt, implementing a Health Savings Plan and found efficiencies that add up to over 3 million dollars in savings over a four-year period.”
He explained that these actions have delayed the city’s expenses from exceeding the income by a least one year. The mayor and his staff are looking to save another potential two million dollars by continuing to seek changes through efficiencies in long-term pension plans and energy savings strategies.
One of the mayor’s most exciting accomplishments to-date happened early last week, he says.
“The city commission approved my time and effort to pursue the establishment of a Kentwood Community Foundation – a non-profit 501c3 charitable organization that would provide needed support for community improvements,” Kepley stated.
The mayor explained that the 501c3 will be established to make fundraising easier and more successful for various programs throughout the city. “[It] will allow the Parks and Recreation Department to perform more outreaches and programs that will encourage and empower the next generation to greatness,” he says.
Among those attending the Rotary luncheon were students from the ARCH Program. The program, established within the last year, is a joint effort by the city and the Kentwood Public Schools to further invest in its students in an after-school program.
“This past year we were successful in receiving a five-year federal grant to operate the Arch Program for all 16 Kentwood schools,” explained Kepley. “Arch provides additional hours of teaching while providing needed meals for the students.”
The student guests ranged from elementary through high school. All applied and were accepted into the Mayor’s Executive Council. “The council is my opportunity to invest in our students by educating and mentoring them on city governance and leadership.
“It is truly a pleasure to spend time with these students,” Kepley added.