Mayor Hodges’ budget set for approval

Some council members say some of the budget’s initiatives could help students.

by Ethan Nelson

Mayor Betsy Hodges’ recommended 2015 budget is set for final approval, and the University of Minnesota area could benefit from it.

The Minneapolis City Council will vote on the proposed budget Wednesday evening, and although the University won’t receive any direct funding, some City Council members say affordable housing and public safety initiatives could affect the University area.

Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey, who represents the Marcy-Holmes and Dinkytown areas, said students should care now more than ever about the measures included in the budget.

“From affordable housing to making it easier to get a job downtown, the budget affects the ‘U,’” he said.

Frey recently authored an amendment to the mayor’s proposal that would allocate up to $4 million to affordable housing programs in Minneapolis.

He said those funds would help keep rent in the University area affordable — an ongoing issue for many students.

“When you already have really high tuition, when it’s difficult to find a job that pays well and you’re paying off your living expenses from the past four years, you’re starting in a deficit,” Frey said.

Another top priority in the city’s proposed budget is public safety.

The mayor’s plan recommends allocating funds to train an additional 10 police officers, which Frey said will improve city public safety overall.

“There was a good chunk of thefts this summer in Dinkytown,” he said. “Some of them were violent, too.”

Another component of the budget is a $1.55 million allocation to create more protected bike lanes.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the University and surrounding neighborhoods, said he supports that measure and other initiatives to make the city more environmentally friendly.

Since Hodges proposed the budget in August, City Council members have made a number of amendments to it.

For example, the council voted to lower the mayor’s proposed property tax levy increase from 2.4 percent to about 2.2 percent, Gordon said.

Steve Kelley, a Humphrey School of Public Affairs senior fellow who teaches a course on public budgeting, said as the mayor works to get her budget passed, she may face challenges addressing council members’ own priorities.

“It remains to be seen whether the council will take action to fund some of their individual agendas,” Kelley said.

Although Gordon said he’s generally supportive of the proposed budget, he has concerns about some of its cuts and boosts to programs.

The City Council voted earlier this month to reduce funding to a number of programs, including some community groups.

The city has also subsidized the Holidazzle Village, Gordon said, which amounted to about $400,000. The proposed budget also allocates $500,000 to finance marketing and programming for the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Gordon said he’d like to see some of that money go to programs that have faced budget cuts, adding that leftover revenue could go toward restoring funding for more community groups.