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Inflation Figures Don’t Impress Those Who See Prices Rising Every Day

March 5, 1989

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ Helen Miller wonders why it took all of those number-crunching government economists so long to figure out that inflation is on the rise. She could have warned them months ago.

″All you have to do is go into the supermarket,″ said Miller, a retired bookkeeper. ″You’ve got to watch every little thing you put in your cart.″

This conservative southwestern Michigan city, recognized for its relatively low housing prices, is feeling the heat of inflation just like every other town across the country.

Residential property assessments for 1989 are up an average of 8.5 percent, as opposed to less than 2 percent for 1987 and about 5 percent for 1988, City Assessor Gerald Ernst said Thursday.

″It may not mean much in New York or on the West Coast, but that’s a substantial amount of inflation for us,″ Ernst said. ″The ripple that has been experienced in other parts of the country and in southeast Michigan has finally reached Grand Rapids.″

For young couples, Michigan’s second-largest city used to be considered a perfect spot for would-be, first-time homeowners.

″We keep saving our money, but every time we go out looking for a house it seems the prices get more and more out of our reach,″ said Jim Reynolds, 26, who works for an automotive parts company.

″And with interest rates going up like they are, looks like we’re going to have to keep waiting,″ he said.

Miller, 67, who is on a fixed income, says she buys only clothes ″that are marked way, way down,″ and foods that are on special.

″I worry about how my children will be able to afford to send my grandchildren to college,″ she said. ″You have to be rich these days to afford such luxuries.″

Miller says she pays little attention to inflation figures released by the government because they don’t seem to reflect the price increases she sees every day.

Arbutus Accardi has seen those price surges everywhere from the dry cleaners to her apartment building.

″I took a few things into the cleaners the other day and it cost me $50,″ said Accardi, who said she was looking for a part-time job.

″I had to move to a different apartment because my rent went way up,″ she said.

Ginny Postma, who said her property taxes are going up, has gone back to the basics to help make ends meet.

″I’ve started to sew more clothes instead of buying, and my husband does a lot of hunting and fishing, so we save on food by having venison in the freezer,″ she said.

As a single mother, Cairn Schiestel said she is struggling to make ends meet with the money she makes from her waitressing job.

″I come to the mall to look, but I never buy,″ she said. ″And at the grocery store, I really have to watch it.″

End adv Sunday March 5.

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