City takes first looks at Mayor’s proposed budget

Mayor R.T. Rybak unveiled the budget Sept. 12. It will come to a final vote Dec. 14.

by Nick Sudheimer

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. RybakâÄôs proposed city budget for 2012 is slowly working its way towards approval.

The budget includes $150 million for street repairs, keeps property taxes flat and focuses on creating jobs âÄî especially for minorities. It will wind its way through different City Council committees and public hearings until it comes up for a final vote Dec. 14.

City Councilman Cam Gordon,  who represents several neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota, welcomed the idea of not raising property taxes but said he wonders what will be cut to offset the cityâÄôs revenue loss. Rybak’s budget will result in the loss of 90 city jobs that havenâÄôt yet been specified.

Next year will be the first in RybakâÄôs nearly 10 years as mayor that property taxes will not be raised.

âÄúOur property taxes are simply too high,âÄù Rybak said.

But some homeowners, especially those who own of higher-value homes and businesses, will see an increase due to the state LegislatureâÄôs elimination of a key tax credit.

The Legislature replaced the market value homestead tax credit with one that benefits lower-value homes more.

Of all neighborhoods in Minneapolis, the Prospect Park East River Road neighborhood will have the highest percentage of homes hit by a 2012 property tax increase, according to city estimates.

RybakâÄôs budget also calls for borrowing $57 million over five years to repair city streets, in addition to the $93 million the city had already budgeted for improvements.

The city can afford to borrow the money because it has paid down $296 million in debt and has a top credit rating, Rybak said.

Another major initiative of the budget will focus on reducing minority unemployment through creating green jobs.

A 2009 study from the Economic Policy Institute revealed that the gap between white and black unemployment rates in the Twin Cities âÄî 6.6 percent and 20.4 percent, respectively âÄî was the largest among major metro areas in the nation.

âÄú[This] is one list, one top ranking, that we should rightfully be embarrassed to lead,âÄù Rybak said.

Gordon said he thinks this employment initiative will result in the city heavily recruiting more green companies.

The Ways and Means Budget Committee met Monday to discuss the proposed budget âÄîone of the many meetings it must go through before approval in December.

Each city department will have the opportunity to speak before the Ways and Means Committee to address their concerns, and there will be two hearings open to the public: one in late November and the other on Dec. 14.

Councilwoman Diane Hofstede said that although itâÄôs too early to say how much the budget will change over the next two months, difficult decisions will have to be made.

âÄúEach department is recommending what their needs are and trying to explain why they should be funded, but the reality is that we have fewer dollars,âÄù Hofstede said.