Hodges details Minneapolis budget priorities

betsy-hodgesMayor Betsy Hodges set forth her vision for transforming Minneapolis into a leading city of the 21st century during her 2016 budget address.

The mayor proposed investments focused on growth and improving basic city services for all residents.

“We have entered a time when we are being asked to face and meet the changes of the 21stcentury,” said Hodges. “We must not only match, not only meet, but we must precede the challenges these changes create with innovation, vision and the bone-deep knowledge that to become the city of the future we must be a city that leads and weathers the transition and is in it for the long haul. Being a 21st-century city means we transform our work to meet the needs of the people and economy of the new century.”

Highlights of Hodges’ proposed investments include $13 million in affordable housing largely spurred by the mayor’s Cradle to K cabinet’s proposal to focus on housing as a strategy to ensure a healthy start for kids. This includes investments in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, $1 million flexible dollars to help create affordable housing options for large families and targeted rental assistance for families leaving shelters. The mayor proposed $10 million for the city’s portion of the 10th Avenue bridge rehabilitation and $400,000 to accelerate Minneapolis’ conversation of city-owned streetlights to LED technology. The funding will implement approximately 900 LED fixtures which, according to Hodges will save about $113,400 a year over their life cycle and pay for itself in three and a half years.

Hodges’ budget also called for additional police officers and funding for 30 TechHire Initiative scholarships that will provide women and people of color with job training to meet employers growing demand for a workforce educated in technology skills.

In recent years, the city’s non-property-tax revenue increased in ways that outpaced expectations while at the same time, some city departments underspent their budgets. These two factors allowed Hodges to increase the projections of non-property-tax revenues to match what the city has seen over the past few years.

According to the mayor’s office, to maintain current service levels Minneapolis provides and account for inflation in 2016, a 4.4 percent levy increase would have been required.

However, Hodges proposed a 3.4 percent increase to the levy, a full percentage point lower. Moreover, because a levy increase does not mean all taxpayers pay more property taxes, two-thirds of Minneapolis homeowners will see the city portion of their property taxes go down; this according to the mayor.

“That 3.4 percent levy increase I proposed is one full percentage point lower than the city would have needed had we not made smart choices to right-size revenue and spending,” said Hodges. “These choices not only brought down the levy increase by one full percentage point, they gave us the flexibility to make changes to how we do business and make transformative investments in what it takes to be a great 21st-century city.”

The Mayor noted in her speech that no city service is more basic than public safety and no city service needs to shift to meet the demands of the 21st century as much as public safety. To continue her efforts to make that shift she proposed several significant investments, including funding for two new sworn police officers who will focus on youth outreach downtown, and $300,000 for police to hire a recruit class to help fill the 862 sworn officer positions. She further proposed $435,262 in funding for two additional analysts in the Crime Analyst Unit and two additional forensic scientists in the crime lab. Of concern to many, Hodges proposed funding for the implementation of police body cameras, storage of data, two video analysts.

Hodges also proposed $15,000 for the city attorney’s office to increase the reach of their driver’s licenses diversion program which aims to reduce the negative impact driving related offenses has on communities of color.

September 1, 2015
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