Sayles Belton releases 2002 budget proposal

Shira Kantor

Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton presented her 2002 budget address Thursday, shying away from her earlier-proposed $6 million tax levy to aid the Neighborhood Revitalization Project and other improvement programs.

Sayles Belton said she opted out of imposing the Housing and Redevelopment Authority levy she offered up in her August framework so as not to step on the toes of Mayor-elect R.T. Rybak’s development plans.

“I firmly believe this is still the right strategy, but I do not want to let my views on this get in the way of the newly elected mayor’s development of strategies to fund economic development or the NRP,” Sayles Belton said.

Sayles Belton recommended an 11.6 percent property tax increase – $15.4 million – to fund city needs.

Minneapolis’ $1 billion 2002 budget includes $8.9 million marked for security directives in response to September’s attack. Sayles Belton dedicated $3.2 million to emergency preparedness training and equipment, including monies for a geographic information system such as New York City’s, which would aid in crisis response.

The state-of-the-art mapping system would allow emergency workers to quickly locate “demographic hot spots” such as schools and hospitals and would help track chemical releases in the city’s sewer system and in the air.

Sayles Belton also recommended a $4.3 million investment in security initiatives to restrict access to government buildings, such as the implementation of “smart ID cards” and limiting buildings to one entrance. She assigned $1.4 million to fund “unexpected expenditures.”

She said the city’s housing market is “very strong,” and despite the predicted 15 to 20 percent vacancy rates downtown next year, she said she did not expect to see “any major or abrupt adjustments to the city’s estimated market values and corresponding tax revenues.”

Approximately $9.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds will go toward affordable-housing initiatives next year.

And since the state Legislature eliminated tax increment financing revenue as a source of funding for the NRP, the city has looked for alternative funding sources.

She proposed meshing NRP with the Minneapolis Community Development Agency and the Planning Department, charging MCDA with a larger role in NRP initiatives. She also said NRP decisions would be left to neighborhood groups, not city officials.

The mayor also addressed heightened government costs as City Hall moves toward the era of “e-government,” by saying the City Council should consider “outsourcing certain non-core business functions” to free-up funds for technology increases.

Sayles Belton said citizen services must not be left by the wayside and she allotted $240,000 for the Minneapolis Multicultural Services program and more than $300,000 to senior programs.

“I’ve heard rumors that there are plans to cut the guts out of the CDBG,” Sayles Belton said. She said council members should not cut back on services such as employment training, transportation and child and health care.

Nearly 70 percent of the city’s general fund will go toward basic services such as police, fire and public works, the mayor said.


Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]