A last-minute budget proposal to redirect city funds to repair and upgrade Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct police station — the site of recent protests — drew a packed house of angry activists to City Hall Wednesday evening.
After hours of withering testimony, the amendment touted earlier by the mayor’s office was not introduced.
The proposal, sponsored by Council Members Blong Yang and Barb Johnson and supported by Mayor Betsy Hodges, was announced hours before the council’s scheduled final budget hearing and vote. It would have directed about $605,000 for “safety and accessibility improvements” at the Fourth Precinct station on Plymouth Avenue N.
But before council members formally introduced the plan, they faced disapproval from more than 60 people who spoke at a public hearing, most of them opposed to more funding for a police department they say needs major reform. Many interpreted the amendment as a move to “fortify” the police station, which has been surrounded by temporary barricades since police ended the 18-day occupation of the building last week. Demonstrators had been camped out to protest against the police shooting of Jamar Clark.
After hours of testimony, the council voted to approve a few new amendments, but the Fourth Precinct money had disappeared from the agenda.
Other last-minute additions to the mayor’s proposed $1.2 billion budget included $305,000 for training and other costs associated with the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, a project through which Minneapolis police officers will get training in dealing with biases toward other communities, crisis intervention and “procedural justice.”
Council members also voted to reallocate $50,000 from a new “green zones” community development program to a Fire Department job training program for high school students, and to create a new website dedicated to the city’s work on racial equity.
The budget raises the amount collected from property taxes, the city’s levy, by about 3.4 percent to $297.5 million. Other revenue generators include utility charges, parking fees, sales taxes and state aid.
The city projects that about 52 percent of owner-occupied homes will see a tax decrease as a result of the levy change.
The growth in apartments means they will bear more of the property tax burden. Apartment values grew by 29 percent in 2015, compared with just 7 percent for residential properties. Commercial property values grew by 14 percent.
The budget increases the Police Department’s ranks of sworn officers from 860 to 862, with the two new officers dedicated to downtown. It also provides funds for a recruit class, two additional forensic scientists in the crime lab and two positions in the crime analysis unit to help respond to public information requests.
An additional two new positions will be focused on redacting footage from police body cameras, which will be rolled out across the department next year.
Hodges said the bulk of the budget that was not a subject of debate Wednesday reflects officials’ commitment to working for equity across the city.
“The actions taken tonight — and the actions not taken tonight — reflect that we value that input and reflect what we heard from the community,” she said.