After 55 minutes of griping about property taxes on Tuesday, Minneapolis residents might have to take a two-hour intermission.
A six-member board that determines the city's property tax ceiling is preparing to interrupt its most important meeting of the year because of an obscure state law that forbids public meetings on the evening of a special election. There is the DFL primary on Tuesday for the seat vacated by Sen. Linda Berglin.
"It's a very awkward situation," said David Wheeler, president of the city's Board of Estimate and Taxation.
The board will set the maximum levy at their meeting after hearing public testimony. They cannot meet between 6 and 8 p.m. If testimony lasts more than an hour -- it traditionally does not -- citizens will have to wait.
Carol Becker, another elected member of the board, said the interruption is compounded by the fact that Mayor R.T. Rybak delayed presenting his full budget. That means the public will have a day, rather than weeks, to review it before the hearing.
"I think we should have a robust discussion in this community about what their taxes should be," Becker said. "And giving people 24 hours to know what a 2 percent tax increase proposal means, I think is ludicrous. And then expecting they're going to be done in an hour?"
Citing the North Side tornado last spring and a prolonged legislative session for the delay, Rybak presented an outline in mid-August that requested a 2 percent property tax hike.
John Stiles, a spokesman for the mayor, said the board has had all the information necessary to make their decision since the outline was released.
"The board's role [Tuesday] is limited," Stiles said. "It's to set the maximum levy. It's not to parse through everything that the mayor is proposing that the city spend in 2011 or in 2012 and say, 'We like this, we don't like that.'"
Wheeler agreed that he does not think the timing is problematic. He said the board should be looking at the big picture when setting the maximum levy, rather than inspecting "every line item."
Stiles added that there will be many opportunities for public testimony before the final budget -- including the final levy -- is passed at the end of the year.
But why hold the hearing on a day when they are legally obligated to recess after less than an hour?
The meeting was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but had to be moved up so the mayor could attend a Mayors' Institute on City Design conference in South Carolina. He was invited to speak about re-envisioning north Minneapolis after the tornado, Stiles said.
The meeting will be held Tuesday at 5:05 p.m. in City Hall room 317.
Eric Roper • 612 673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper