Rybak’s budget: 33 city jobs cut, police next?

Mayor R.T. Rybak proposes further city cuts, speculates cops could be next.

While Minneapolis police will not see officer positions cut in 2009, they might not be as lucky next year. Facing $30 million in state funding cuts, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak announced Monday that cuts to the 2009 budget will include the loss of 33 filled city positions, but larger cuts could come in 2010 when about 116 police officers could be cut. âÄúI am extremely concerned about our long-term ability to continue to keep our police force at its current level,âÄù he said, âÄúa level that has played a significant role in the dramatic fall in crime in Minneapolis.âÄù The proposed cuts from Gov. Tim Pawlenty would mean $13.5 million less every year for the Minneapolis Police Department, Rybak said.

Mayor RT Rybak.
Matt Mead, DAILY

However, in response to community concerns raised at several meetings earlier in February, no major cuts were made to the Minneapolis Police and Fire departments in the mayorâÄôs revised budget for this year. The city of Minneapolis invested $210 million in police between 2006 and 2008, Rybak said âÄî an investment that may have contributed to a 24 percent drop in crime in the city over the same time period. The Second Precinct, which covers Southeast Como , Prospect Park and other University of Minnesota neighborhoods, led the city in violent crime reduction, falling 21 percent last year. Rybak said the 2009 budget will make no personnel cuts to the Minneapolis Police Department , but he is looking to save $1.5 million in non-personnel costs, including overtime. Minneapolis Police Department spokesman Jesse Garcia said the department feels fortunate to not be on the âÄúchopping blockâÄù this time around during economic discussions. âÄúObviously, we could always use more officers but we understand the big picture and we have gotten good at working smarter rather than harder and making do with the numbers we have,âÄù he said. The police force will also be aided by the federal stimulus money through one-time use grants. This funding will prevent any cuts to the police force for this year. However, itâÄôs still unclear if any federal money will help reduce cuts to the police force in 2010. The Minneapolis Fire Department will lose six vacant positions and is looking to create revenue through fee-based work, such as residential inspections, while they are on duty but not fighting a fire. Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson said he is happy to not see a reduction in his force, but said even vacant positions are still positions. âÄúIf I have a fire fighter who retired and I didnâÄôt fill his position, that means we just got used to working with 99 firefighters instead of 100,âÄù he said. âÄúIâÄôll work with the 99, because itâÄôs better than losing 20.âÄù However, job loss will be a reality for 33 city employees whose positions are planned to be cut in the budget. An additional 26 vacant positions will also be eliminated, Rybak said. Eighty percent of the cityâÄôs costs are in personnel. The city will also lose two city services under the mayorâÄôs budget: the Health Department lab and the Civil Rights Department’s complaints investigation unit. Minnesota has its own complaints investigations unit, Rybak said. Rybak is revising his 2009 budget for the second time since December, when the city realized it faced about $38 million in additional pension costs. However, in January, Pawlenty proposed to cut local governments by more than $99.6 million in 2009 and $193.4 million in 2010. Minneapolis will be cut by $17 million in 2009 and $35 million in 2010. An additional $13 million was cut at the end of December, bringing the cityâÄôs cuts to a total of $30 million. The budget will move to the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, with adoption by the full City Council set for March 11.