Minneapolis passes 2012 budget without raising property taxes

by Nick Sudheimer

After years of complaints from Minneapolis residents that property taxes were too high, city officials listened.  The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved the 2012 city budget Wednesday evening, which didn’t raise property taxes for  the first time in nearly 10 years.

Although many residents were happy with the budget’s zero percent property tax levy, it came with a cost.  Almost every city department faces significant cuts and roughly 100 city positions will be eliminated.  Despite the cuts, overall city spending will rise by about 1 percent in 2012, mainly due to higher health insurance premiums for city workers, according to a report from the Star Tribune.

Additionally, despite the zero percent property tax levy, Minneapolis homeowners will still likely see their property taxes rise because of cuts to state grants.

A major aspect of the 2012 budget increases funding by $45 million to a five-year city-wide street paving program, which will likely go beyond patching potholes.

Although the budget was passed Wednesday, the Ways and Means/Budget Committee reopened the budget Thursday to include an amendment which charges most Minneapolis residents $5 on their water bill regardless of the amount of water they use. According to a report from the Star Tribune, the costs are designed to help the Department of Public Works meet costs, even in years where droughts reduce water use.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Mayor R.T. Rybak said that while he’s happy the budget could be passed without raising taxes, it is unlikely that the city won’t raise property taxes next year.

“I’m not sure if we can come in again at zero [percent property tax levy]next year, I’d like to, but it will extremely difficult,” Rybak said. “I’m not saying impossible, but very difficult, very very very difficult.”