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: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoughts On the Mayor’s 2016 Recommended Budget



In August Mayor Hodges gave her budget address, Transforming the Basics of the Twenty-First Century City, and outlined initiatives and priorities for next year’s spending.  I was glad to see the Mayor continue to emphasize equity and embed it clearly into the general health of our city, “Our work to grow the city and grow it well into the future is indistinguishable from our work to make sure life outcomes are not determined by zip code, race or current class status. Out brightest future and out best hope to become the city we are meant to be are in doing this work inside the context of that reality.”  I commend the Mayor for clearly identifying climate change, racial and economic injustice, the need for transportation alternatives and preparing for a new kind of economic future as areas demanding our focus. As she put it “We have entered a time when we are being asked to face and meet the changes of the twenty-first century: the warming of our atmosphere; the reawakened spirit to push harder for racial and economic justice; the inexorable press of people who want to live in cities, and live here without cars; the changing national demographics away from older white people to younger people of color; the new flexibilities that technology is bringing to our workplaces, our communication, our consumption, our manufacturing, and our connections to one another. We must not only match, not only meet, but we must precede the challenges these changes create with innovation, vision, and the bone-deep knowledge that to become the city of the future we must be a city that leads and weathers the transition and is in it for the long haul.”

That speech began the Council’s most active involvement in the process for planning and approving the 2016 budget. Since then we have received budget presentations and reports from all the city departments and the several independent departments or boards that are connected to city budget including the Park and Recreation Board, the Municipal Building Commission and the Youth Coordinating Board. This represents one of the most important decisions the Council makes each year.  I believe that the more the public can be informed and engaged in this process the better.  To that end, I will elaborate on my own initial thoughts and reactions.

In general, I was very impressed with the Mayor’s address and with the budget recommendations as put forward so far. Her focus on basic services, equity, children and youth, youth violence prevention, workforce development, and smart transportation are right on target.

So far I am not planning specific amendments but have been working with Ways and Means Chair CM Quincy on a few issues, including securing funding for our Healthy Seniors programs in Southeast, Seward and Longfellow. Broadly speaking,  I wish we could be doing more in four areas: leveraging our clean energy partnership to push harder for clean energy; growth and the need to balance it with preservation and conservation; the future of civic participation and our neighborhood organizations; and reform in the criminal justice system.  I will note that the current budget does support and leaves ample room to work on these issues next year.  A new idea that I would like to see incorporated into next year’s budget is participatory budgeting

For now, let’s dig in to the some of the details of the budget.

I am generally supportive of her proposed levy and overall budget increase. She is recommending a budget for all “City” funds of $1.22 billion. This is a $31.7 million, or 2.7%, increase from last year’s budget of $1.19 billion. This is reasonable and consistent with cost living increases.  When the independent boards are included, the overall recommended increase is 3.4% in the property tax levy, raising the total amount levied by $9.8 million, from $287.6 million in 2015 to $297.5 million in 2016. The recommended budget uses the growth in the “tax base” (from the increase of the total number of property owners paying taxes) as well as accumulated, unspent funds from previous years; unanticipated growth in city sales and entertainment tax revenues; and Local Government Aid (LGA) funds from the State, to make improvements in services and programs while minimizing the impact on the property taxpayers. They Mayor, and finance staff, project that because of these factors nearly 2/3rds of property owners in the city will see a reduction in city property taxes next year.   

You can watch the mayor’s budget address and upcoming budget hearings on Minneapolis 79 (Comcast Cable channel 79) or on a smartphone, tablet or computer by visiting the City of Minneapolis website here


Here are how some of the most noteworthy budget highlights that are in sync my goals and priorities. 


·         $400,000 to accelerate Minneapolis’ conversation of City-owned streetlights to LED technology and save about $113,400 a year over their life cycle and pay for itself in three and a half years.
·         Green Business Investment Matching funding to provide money for businesses that work with hazardous substances to operate more cleanly to reduce pollution.
·         $50,000 to create a Green Zone pilot program which will use economic development to catalyze environmental and economic justice in vulnerable neighborhoods.
·         $155,000 to support Upper Harbor Terminal redevelopment along the river.
·         Ongoing funding for the Clean Energy Partnership to execute the 2016 work plan and meet goals to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis.
·         Funding for police body cameras and civilian staff to implement the program.
·         $13 million for affordable housing, which includes a increase of 2 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in general, $1 million flexible dollars to help create affordable housing options for large families, and targeted rental assistance for families leaving shelters and $800,000 targeted to support stable senior housing.
·         $300,000 for police to hire a recruit class to help fill the 862 sworn officer positions in the City.
·         $435,262 in funding for two additional analysts in the Crime Analyst Unit and two additional forensic scientists in the Crime Lab. The new positions will free officers up to spend more time in the community and process requests more efficiently and quickly.
·         A proposed $15,000 for the City Attorney’s office to increase the reach of their driver’s licenses diversion program which aims to reduce the negative impact driving related offenses has on communities of color.
·         Funding for a pilot program that gives the Attorney’s Office the responsibility to charge misdemeanors and ensures more direct feedback to officers.
·         Tripling investments the City makes in restorative justice to break the cycle of recidivism and negative community impact.
·         $112,000 to bolster the City’s BUILD Leaders program which takes young men of color and puts them in leadership roles where they also learn employment skills
·         Funding for 30 “TechHire Initiative” scholarships to provide women and people of color with job training in technology skills.
·         $200,000 in funding for two new positions to aid the roll-out of the City’s Working Family Agenda policy—expected this fall—that will be tasked with business outreach, employee education, and the development of enforcement mechanisms.
·         A new American with Disabilities compliance position to ensure the city is accessible and livable for all residents.
·         Funding for two new sworn police officers who will focus on youth outreach downtown.
·         $200,000 in funding for the Fire Department to implement innovative new programs to get youth and high school students of diverse background into pipelines that transition to jobs in the EMT and firefighter fields.
·         $10 million for the City’s portion of the 10th Avenue bridge rehabilitation.
·         A new position in the City Auditor’s office to handle the increased demand of property assessments.
·         $200,000 for elections to increase the number of polling places to facilitate a better election next year.
·         $85,000 for the implementation of the Business Made Simple working group recommendations to make it easier for businesses to invest in Minneapolis. 
·         Funding for four new construction and six new housing inspectors.
·         $50,000 to help more communities and residents engage the City’s Zero Waste programs.
·         Funding for two positions in for the next three years to focus on redrafting the City’s Comprehensive plan — which guides growth and operations for 10 years — with a focus on sustainability and equity.

It is worth noting that, despite some additional resources and staff, the 2016 budget includes over 100 fewer full time employees than in 2007, just before we made significant cuts to our staff and services in response to the financial conditions at that time. Given the economics, the growth in our city and the demands of today, I believe this makes sense.

This year the Council scheduled two public comment hearings on the proposed 2016 property tax levy and budget. The first was held November 18 at 6:05 p.m. in Room 317 of City Hall, and the second will be on December 9 at 6:05 p.m. General upcoming dates in the 2016 budget process include:
        1-4 p.m., Dec. 4 and 7 – Ways and Means Budget Subcommittee budget markup.
        6:05 p.m., Dec. 9 – City Council final vote on budget after the public hearing.

For more information about the budget, including the full budget  visit  http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/budget/index.htm

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