On December 14, the City Council unanimously passed the 2012 budget. This was an especially difficult budget for me to support because it included many layoffs and significant cuts to some very valuable programs and services. The Mayor and Council were forced to make a number of difficult choices because of cuts at the state and federal levels, as well as the decision not increase the property tax levy. Positive highlights of the budget include:
- The property tax levy was not increased.
- The capital budget includes $150 million for street repairs over the next five years, 60% more than expected.
- The Mayor’s proposed cut of $240,000 to the Minneapolis Telecommunication Network was trimmed back to a $90,000 cut.
- The budget invests in the coordinated One Minneapolis initiative to reduce racial inequity in unemployment and a proposed position cut to Civil Rights, that could be central to this effort, was recovered.
- Although proposed, there will be no layoffs of Community Crime Prevention Specialists.
- There are also no layoffs to firefighters or police officers.
- The City will continue to support Restorative Justice, like the Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice Programs, to the tune of $20,000.
- The Council approved $50,000 (from the $125,000 cut in the Mayor’s proposed budget) to support the It's All About the Kids Collaborative (Kids Collaborative) that helps provide stable housing for families identified as homeless who have children that attend a participating Minneapolis Public School.
The lowlights included:
- Layoffs of roughly 25 city employees with another 50 (or more) from the Convention Center being changed from permanent, full time staff to temporary/as needed employees.
- A last minute amendment that narrowly passed despite my strong opposition that transferred $125,000 from 311 to the City Council. This will likely mean the loss of two 311 operators.
- The closing of our Housing Services office and departure of Housing Services staff, Diana Buckanaga and Tanya Cruz who have provided valuable services to thousands of Minneapolis residents for many years. In 2010, the two staff served 12,548 callers; including over 10,000 tenants and nearly 1,000 landlords.
- A cut, after 15 years of stable support, of $200,000 to the Neighborhood Health Care Network that helps community clinics, like the People’s Center, the Community University Health Center, Neighborhood Health Source, Indian Health Board and Southside Community Services provide affordable health care services to uninsured Minneapolis residents.
- For the first time in at least 6 years there will be no federal community block grant funds for Senior programs like South East Seniors and the Seward/Longfellow Healthy Seniors.
- A cut of $68,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars from community organizing in public housing.
- Differences of opinion about the final arrangements for the transfer of remaining Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) administrative funds were not fully resolved and a smooth and complete consolidation of the NRP program into the new Neighborhood Relations Department was not fully accomplished as part of the budget approval.
- The Homegrown Minneapolis coordinator position was not funded and current funding will run out in March.
Additionally this year there will be a new utility bill charge. In previous years the City Council has increased rates charged for sewer and water services based on the amount, or volume, of water used during a month. This year the Council added a new fixed fee or rate and did not increase the rate based on volume. Most homes will see a change that adds about $5 in fixed rates per month starting in January. This new fee will help cover the costs of maintaining the water distribution system and sewer lines that service all homes and businesses at all times. Recently during times when citywide water use is low, there has been less money available to maintain and operate these critical systems. These services require fixed maintenance, and adding fixed rate fees will allow the City to manage them more effectively.