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Continued: Property taxes take a back seat in Mpls. mayoral campaign

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 19, 2013 - 10:03 PM

‘Fiscal messes’

No one in the field of mayoral candidates has played a larger role in city finances than Hodges, who chairs the budget committee, and a south Minneapolis home she now owns with her husband has seen the sharpest property tax increase — 30 percent in five years — among the top candidates. Met Council Member Gary Cunningham had already owned the home for decades when he and Hodges married in 2011, after the increase had occurred. (“It has caused no marital fights … he understands,” said Hodges.)

They live separately because they represent different districts, and Hodges rents another home 3 miles away in Linden Hills.

The second-term council member said she is proud of the way she, Rybak, and other colleagues addressed the “significant fiscal messes” left over from the ’90s. She pushed a pension reform effort that saved millions of dollars and frequently mentions it on the campaign trail. Despite the uproar over property taxes several years ago, she said she doesn’t hear much about the issue from voters as she campaigns.

Some candidates have raised the issue. Park Board Commissioner Bob Fine has proposed to lower property taxes in the city by 5 percent, though he has not put forth a detailed plan to do so, speaking generally about how he would audit departments to find efficiencies. Cam Winton, as an independent with no elected or appointed experience, has been more comfortable than many of his opponents questioning City Hall spending and has emphasized cutting “red tape” to stimulate economic growth. Audit committee member Stephanie Woodruff, who experienced foreclosure and now rents, is pushing checkbook-level spending disclosures online.

On the North Side, where housing values have stayed low in the wake of foreclosures, a lack of investment and concerns about crime, Samuels pays just $2,082 in property taxes. He said he wants to pay more.

“I can, and I think that’s what a healthy community would be doing,” he said. “You should not have to create blight and violence and poor academic outcomes in order to achieve affordability.”

While candidates were preparing to “fight the tax battle” earlier in the campaign, he said, the focus has consistently stayed on crime and education, concerns that were also reflected in a poll conducted for the Star Tribune last month. Samuels said that concerns about schools and crime cause would-be residents of the North Side to look elsewhere, but he wants to lower taxes by steering the city’s planned population growth to north Minneapolis.

And as for Rybak’s own property taxes in southwest Minneapolis? They rose 24 percent to $8,247 in the last five years — on par or higher than the fluctuations in taxes for most of the top candidates running to replace him.

 

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

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