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Minneapolis approves $800M plan to upgrade roads, parks

Above: A signing ceremony featuring Mayor Hodges and members of the City Council followed the vote.

A momentous $800 million deal to breath new life into Minneapolis' crumbling roads and parks received enthusiastic and unanimous approval Friday by the City Council.

The plan would pump about $22 million a year into new street repairs, and $11 million into park renovations and maintenance -- adjusted annually for inflation. It will be paid for largely through issuing debt and raising property taxes (see here for more details).

"The commitment we are making today for our streets and for our parks will allow us to meet our duty to the generation before us, who built the Minneapolis we inherited," said Mayor Betsy Hodges. "And our duty to the generations that will follow, to ensure they inherit a city that works for through 21st Century."

The deal was unveiled and signed within a week -- lightning-fast pace at City Hall -- without any significant public opposition from city officials. It comes about five months after the Park Board announced it would seek a referendum on $300 million in repairs, which is now unnecessary.

"I have worked on some of the biggest issues of our time, like many others who have come before me. But I think this one rises to a higher level," said Council Member Lisa Goodman. "Mainly because of where we are right now as a society, with so much negativity towards each other. And so much negativity about government and the role of government."

Council Member Kevin Reich, who chairs the city's transportation committee, said his committee will discuss the criteria for road investments in the coming months. The infusion of cash also comes as the city seeks a new public works director, who will ultimately be instrumental in carrying out the plan.

The Park Board has already outlined which of the city's 157 neighborhood parks will take priority, based on a criteria that factors the condition of park assets and the amount of racially-concentrated poverty in the area -- as well as youth population, density and crime statistics.

The semi-independent Park Board must still pass its version of the ordinance approved on Friday. A public hearing will take place on May 18.

Six charts explaining Minneapolis' $800 million road and park plan

The Minneapolis City Council will take initial votes Wednesday on a massive, $800 million proposal to breath new life into the city's crumbling roads and parks.

The deal, reached earlier this week, is a once-in-a-generation committment and represents a new level of coordination between the city and its semi-independent Park Board. It follows months of volleying proposals, including the Park Board's push to have a referendum on park funding.

The council will deliberate over the plan, and its fine print, at Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting. They are expecting to vote on it at the full council meeting this Friday.

Below are several city and Park Board charts explaining, from the perspective of city and park officials, why the infusion is necessary and how to pay for it.

The Park Board, led by superintendent Jayne Miller, says its facilities are in dire need of repair. Many buildings were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s and require renovations or replacement.

The city's engineer, Steve Kotke, explained earlier this year that the city's roads and streets are deteriorating faster than they're being repaired. Without an extra $30 million a year, he said, they will deteriorate quickly.

Most of the city's streets were constructed or last reconstructed in the 1960s.

The $800 million, 20-year proposal to pay for it all relies heavily on property tax increases, as well as issuing debt. Cash balances and reserves will be tapped in the early years.

That proposal would drive up the city's property tax levy -- the dollar amount it collects in taxes -- by an average of .66 percent per year. That's on top of average 3.3 percent increases the city says are needed to maintain existing services.

It spikes in year five to bring revenues from special pre-1979 taxing districts, which now pay for neighborhoods and Target Center, into the city's general fund.

The deal is very complex, relying on a variety of funding sources -- particularly in the early years. The spreadsheet below illustrates where the money would come from.

Funding Sources Uses