$70 million donation to help Kalamazoo with general fund deficit

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- An anonymous donation of $70 million for the City of Kalamazoo will pave the way for big changes over the next three years. City leaders, however, say the work is just getting started.

It's part of a new 'Foundation of Excellence' that's being established, unveiled Thursday night at a special city commission meeting.

Before this announcement, the city was staring at an almost $2 million deficit next year and more than $5 million by 2020. This donation will help cover some of those costs and also create a plan for the future. The money will also go towards lowering property taxes, saving homeowners money and potentially spurring new development throughout the city.

The big picture is making the fund self-sustainable. The Foundation of Excellence fund will count on additional donations from other donors in coming years to keep it afloat. If the money is raised, they can forego other plans to bring in city revenue and allow more funds to be dedicated to new projects and developments. 

It was a lot for those who attended the meeting to soak in; many asking questions on exactly where the funds will be allocated, for what, when, and if certain things won't get approval. Mayor Bobby Hopewell says this is a plan in process.

"If you're expecting anyone to tell us - or anyone in this room - that the work has already been done, that's not what I or the city manager are saying because this is a heavy lift," Hopewell said. "But what we can tell you is that the work is intended to do this."

"For the first time in 11 years, I have the opportunity to dream a dream," said Vice-Mayor Don Cooney.

In the end, the city passed a motion to hear more on the foundation plans and how it'll work. No date has been set for that meeting just yet.

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