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
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
$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
$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
$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
$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:
p.m., Dec. 4 and 7 – Ways and Means Budget Subcommittee budget markup.
p.m., Dec. 9 – City Council final vote on budget after the public hearing.