The Minneapolis City Council on Monday adopted a 2010 budget that spells layoffs for about two dozen of the city's most junior police officers and recruits but keeps the investigation of civil rights complaints in city hands.
About a half-dozen cops already on duty and 19 recruits scheduled to hit the streets in a matter of days will lose their jobs. Some could be rehired if a federal stimulus grant comes through.
Another 30 civilians in the department also face layoffs. But 27 firefighters who got layoff notices earlier will keep their jobs.
Repeated public testimony against a proposed two-year shift of investigating civil rights complaints from the city to the state persuaded the council to abandon that idea on a 7-6 vote. Opposition came from state Reps. Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion plus civil rights commissioners, investigators and the community. The council also voted down 8 to 5 Cam Gordon's proposal to spend $135,000 sounding out the community on the issue, studying best practices on investigating rights complaints and evaluating other civil rights functions of the city.
As they neared the end of deliberations on the budget, council members had their fingers crossed that the city's fiscal situation doesn't get worse. The city is still waiting to hear whether an expected new round of cuts in state aid will be necessary. That could force the council to rewrite its budget as it did earlier this year.
The $1.3 billion spending plan adopted Monday relies on a 7.3 percent increase in the property tax levy. But city taxes on a typical home would go up 2.2 percent.
Overall, a homeowner's bill for all taxing jurisdictions in 2010 should be close to even or fall a bit, according to the Board of Estimate and Taxation. The property tax hike by the city will be offset by a drop in school taxes, and the addition of tax base from some expiring tax-increment districts also will help. Homeowners also will fare better than businesses because residential assessed values generally have been falling faster.
And the city got a $9.6 million break that allowed it to trim the levy from Rybak's original proposal of an 11.3 percent increase. That came when a judge ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit challenging how pensions for some police and firefighters were calculated.
The budget came up for adoption after an unusual third budget markup session by the council Monday morning that led to some last-minute changes on police layoffs. Budget chair Paul Ostrow said that unexpected year-end disclosure of overspending by police and fire departments led to the potential for layoffs. "It put us in an untenable position," he said.
But one of the police recruits facing layoffs, Heather Jorges, told council members, "We don't want to work anywhere else. We are very dedicated to the city of Minneapolis."
Meanwhile, some other programs were spared.
The budget writers dipped into funding for some of Rybak's favored programs to keep civilian crime prevention specialists working in neighborhoods. Money was taken away from such programs as high school career centers, micro grants to encourage homegrown food, and foreclosure prevention efforts.
"It was ugly work because there were no easy cuts to make," one budget panel member, Sandra Colvin Roy, told her constituents in a newsletter.
The most unpopular item in the budget among those speaking to the council Monday night was the deleted provision that asked the state to handle new rights complaints while the Department of Civil Rights is evaluated.
Taneeza Islam, a department employee, said she and her peers have increased their productivity, clearing 348 cases so far this year, compared with 100 or fewer before 2007. Some opponents said there are practical issues with the plan because the state doesn't investigate some rights areas the city protects.
The Police Department's budget of nearly $131 million comes mostly from the city's property tax-supported general fund. Although maintaining patrol staff can be a hot political issue, the department's impact on the general fund led Rybak to recommend that Chief Tim Dolan find $5.3 million in cuts to help balance the city budget.
The department is budgeted for nearly 1,100 employees this year, with 734 in its patrol area and more than 200 more in investigations.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438
U BRACES FOR MORE FUNDING CUTS: Regents will consider on Thursday how a projected $1.2 billion state shortfall will affect its future. B2