Rybak gets earful of ideas on ways to spend

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT
  • Star Tribune
  • February 9, 2009 - 10:45 PM

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak got an earful of suggestions for cutting costs and setting budget priorities in separate meetings with city residents and employees on Monday.

The sessions are designed to shape the revamped city budget that Rybak intends to propose in response to state aid cuts. The mayor announced Monday that he's planning to delay his planned Feb. 18 budget presentation.

About 40 people at Martin Luther King Neighborhood Center peppered Rybak with their ideas.

With policing, fire service and criminal prosecutions taking up almost two-thirds of the city's general fund, more people said they'd ease up on police spending than increase it.

"I honestly think that because of the size of those items, there's room for give," Ed Newman told Rybak. He'd emphasize road and bridge investment.

But John Van Heel said he'd shift money from public works and housing inspection to emergency services. Linda Hoover said that with civil rights enforcement, decent rental housing and good health services, policing wouldn't be as necessary.

Roger Banks said he's skeptical that more spending on police means safer streets and said neighborhoods could play a stronger role in fighting crime.

Earlier, Rybak got a long list of cost-cutting suggestions from an overflow crowd of at least 140 city employees. They included unpaid days off, broadening use of the city sales tax, eliminating free parking for some appointees, streamlining procedures, offering early retirement incentives, merging park police into regular police, collecting trash every other week and consolidating services with the county.

The city already has absorbed a $13 million aid cut imposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty days before the 2008 budget was closed out. The city drew down its budget reserve, and now hopes to build it. But it expects to absorb another $17 million aid cut in this year's budget, with that rising to a cumulative $35 million in 2010. That's 9 percent of the general fund, which is largely supported by state aid and property taxes.

Another meeting with residents is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. at East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 NE. 2nd St. Another employee meeting is planning for 12:39 p.m. Wednesday in Room 319 of City Hall.

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