A member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation is asking a judge to force Mayor Betsy Hodges to file a full 2018 budget with the City Council “immediately,” arguing the mayor’s delayed release of her budget is a disservice to citizens and a violation of the city charter.
Carol Becker, one of two elected members of the six-person board that sets the city’s maximum property tax levy, filed the complaint in Hennepin County Court on Friday.
By city charter, the Minneapolis mayor is supposed to file a detailed budget with the Board of Estimate and the City Council by Aug. 15. Hodges published the general outline of her budget proposal that day, but will not deliver a full budget address until Sept. 12.
Hodges said “major public safety incidents” in recent weeks, including the police killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, “demanded considerable attention” from her, the City Council and senior city staff, and that delivering the budget address late in response to urgent public safety concerns is consistent with past practice.
In 2007, Mayor R.T. Rybak waited to deliver his full budget speech until September while he was responding to the Aug. 1 collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge. Rybak also waited in 2011 after the north Minneapolis tornado and while waiting to see what effect the state government shutdown had on the city budget, Hodges said.
Hodges also said that she has asked newly confirmed Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for his ideas on the 2018 police budget.
Becker, who says she has not supported any of the mayoral candidates, pointed to the city charter, which requires that the budget due Aug. 15 include “a statement of all proposed expenditures, the revenue from all sources and a recommended five-year capital improvement program.”
If Hodges doesn’t release those details until Sept. 12, Becker said, citizens won’t have enough time to prepare for the Sept. 13 public hearing on the budget.
“This means that an individual has only one day to get the budget, read the budget [which is approximately an inch thick], prepare comments on the budget, organize with other individuals, get time off work and attend the public hearing,” Becker said.
Becker threatened to file this type of complaint against Rybak in 2011, she said.
“I don’t want to keep fighting this every year,” said Becker, who is running unopposed for re-election.
Becker asked in the filing that her attorney costs be covered. Hodges’ office declined to comment further Friday.
Deputy City Attorney Erik Nilsson said, “We believe that the Mayor is in full compliance with the City Charter and will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”
Other members of the Board of Estimate and Taxation are less worried about the timing of the budget.
“It would be great to do it with more time, however, we’ve got an outline, it is consistent with the long-term plan that we’ve set, and it has been an extraordinary number of weeks that have taken up time for everybody in City Hall,” said David Wheeler, the other elected citizen on the panel and a Hodges supporter. “I don’t have a big problem with it.”
Council Member John Quincy, a Hodges supporter who is also on the Board of Estimate and Taxation, was unavailable Friday afternoon, but his office said he has no problem with the delay.
Hodges has proposed raising the property tax levy by 5.5 percent in 2018. The final budget will be approved by the City Council in December.