Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 2010 Budget Review

The 2010 budget that we approved in December has been the most difficult I have had to consider since taking office in 2006. Faced with significant cuts from the state, we were forced to balance a desire to keep taxes from escalating while still providing essential city services. On top of this, we learned late this year that the Police Department had overspent its 2009 budget by a staggering $3 million, increasing the deficit we had to fill.

Unfortunately, we were forced to cut almost 100 City jobs from nearly every department including 25 police officers, 30 civilian employees of the police department. The police cuts were especially hard for me because the Police Department had made great progress in terms of recruiting a diverse class of new officers, and these are among the first who will be cut. I will be paying closer attention to the 2010 Police Department budget, to prevent a repeat of this year’s poor fiscal discipline.

Fortunately, since passing the budget we were able to modify a previously awarded Hiring Recovery Program grant to allow us to re-hire 13 laid-off officers. Six of those officers had previously been serving in the Patrol Division and the other seven we from the recent graduates from the Police Academy. Additionally, the Regulatory Swervices budget will cover the costs of two more officers to work on problem properties and on Animal Control enforcement. In total, 15 of the 25 officers that received lay-off notices are being re-hired and we will continue to look for other funding to rehire the remaining 10 officers.

I regret that we were unable to develop a more robust voluntary unpaid time off program. Such a program could have saved jobs by reducing overall staffing costs. This tool was used extensively within some departments, but I hope to do more to promote and develop it next year so that by then we will have better ways to save jobs if needed for what I expect to be another challenging budget year.

But as bad as it was, the 2010 budget situation could have been much worse. A legal victory in a lawsuit with the Police pension save us nearly $10 million, which helped us keep the levy increase to 7.3% rather than 11% and reduces the average tax increase for a Minneapolis homeowner from and estimated 6.6% to 2.1%.. The Council started out talking about much deeper cuts to staffing in the Police Department, as well as layoffs of firefighters, but we managed to keep these cuts as low as possible.

I was also very pleased by the outcome of some issues in particular:

  • On a 7-6 vote, the Council rejected a move that would have, in my opinion, decimated the Complaint Investigations Unit of the Civil Rights Department. This gives us time to more carefully come up with a solution that will deal with the complaint backlog and set our Civil Rights Department on a more successful path.
  • I was able to convince my colleagues to continue support of Restorative Justice programs, albeit at a much lower level than in past years ($20,000 this year versus $75,000 in the past).
  • Almost all of our Crime Prevention Specialists, the City’s most important community policing strategy, retained their jobs.
  • We saved the Arts Coordinator position, moving it to the City Coordinator’s office.
  • Though we had to take some funding from it, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund was held to a smaller cut than I had anticipated
  • We were able to provide more support this year to Park infrastructure and to needed and overdue maintenance to bridges and streets including funding to resurface many residential streets in Prospect Park in 2010 and to reconstruct Riverside Avenue from Cedar to Franklin, with design work to begin in 2010 and reconstruction in 2011 and 2012, construction of a new alignment of 22nd St in Seward, and lighting for the Hiawatha LRT trail.

In December we also voted on using Tax Increment Funds to pay for neighborhood revitalizations and Target Center debt. I wish that we had been able to fund neighborhoods more, but, due to the decision to recertification of only half of the Tax Increment Financing districts this will likely be closer to 4 or 5 million dollars a years for all 81 neighborhoods, and not the 10 we had hoped for. Also, due to the other pressing issues, especially the proposal to gut the Complaint Investigations Unit, it was clear that my motion to increase the Civilian Review Authority investigators would not have been successful, so I put it off another year.

All in all, though, we were given an incredibly difficult job to do in crafting this budget. The mayor made a strong proosal, we put a great deal of work into it and did a good job balancing priorities. So, in the end I voted for the budget that passed. To learn more, the 2010 budget should be posted here soon on the city’s Finance Department website.


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