The Minneapolis City Council has approved a $1.6 billion budget for the coming year, one supported by the largest property tax levy increase in a decade.
Mayor Jacob Frey’s second budget spends millions to recruit and train a full cadet class to join the city’s police department. It once again prioritizes housing, with $31 million going toward a growing list of affordable housing investments.
It’s one of the largest — and final — actions city officials will take this year and highlights their priorities for 2020.
To fund their new plans, the mayor and council are relying on a property tax levy increase of 6.95%. The hike will be felt most acutely in less wealthy pockets of the city, where property taxes are expected to rise more than 20% next year. For a home valued at $264,500, closer to the median sales price, the city estimates taxes will rise by $109.
Just like their counterparts in St. Paul, the council divided over the property tax increase on Wednesday night’s 10-3 vote, with Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Lisa Goodman and Andrew Johnson dissenting.
But it was the police recruit class that drew the most attention during a public hearing before the vote. One downtown business owner thanked the mayor and council for adding officers, but most speakers argued against it, saying it didn’t address root causes of violence and would have a disproportionate impact on blacks.
“If policing was going to help our problem, it would have happened by now,” said Mysnikol Miller, a neighborhood organizer on the North Side. “We have had plenty of police for plenty of years, and it’s not improving anything.”
After initially proposing to hire 14 officers — a measure that drew a swift outcry from some community groups — Frey and council members negotiated to put the funding toward hiring and training 38 cadets in an effort to strengthen the shrinking department.
As part of the compromise, they moved additional money to the city’s violence prevention programs, bringing the total to $2.7 million.
The money will be used to reduce group and intimate-partner violence, as well as to lower crime in the Ventura Village, Phillips West and Stevens Square neighborhoods.
More than $400,000 is targeted toward strategies to curb opioid abuse.
A one-time investment of $31 million will pay for affordable housing programs, including a trust fund for developers building or preserving low-income housing and a program assisting homeless students and their families.
The budget also delineates six “cultural districts” — pockets of the city heavily populated by immigrants, blacks and American Indians — that would receive an infusion of money for litter pickup, better lighting and renovated storefronts.
At the request of Council Member Abdi Warsame, the city will set aside $50,000 for the development of a controversial public market in Cedar-Riverside.
Separately, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority will receive $2.3 million in one-time funding to upgrade windows, insulation and other systems in hopes of saving energy at the Elliot Twins high-rise towers.
Warsame, whose ward includes the Cedar High Apartments where a fire killed five residents last month, added a clause requiring the Housing Authority to install sprinklers at the Elliot Twins. Given the scope of the renovations, the Housing Authority likely would have needed to do so anyway to comply with codes.
Missing from the 2020 budget is $500,000 initially slated to help with the creation of Village Financial, a black-led credit union planned for north Minneapolis.
The city had tentatively agreed to give the money on the condition that the credit union open in 2019, which hasn’t happened.
Instead, the money will go toward a rent-stabilization study, a payday lending program, a youth savings program and the cultural districts.
Also on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved its $126.2 million budget on a 5-3 vote.
That budget focuses spending on youth programs, including youth employment and arts and technology centers. It eliminates free after-school programming at four locations proposed by Superintendent Al Bangoura earlier this year, and shifted $100,000 to youth programming specifically in underserved communities of color.
To raise revenue, the Park Board budget approved increases for certain recreation fees.
It allocates only one-year funding for two tree-preservation positions. Some commissioners expressed concern for how those positions would be funded after 2020.
Out of about 100 people who spoke at a council hearing about the city budget earlier in the month, only one raised concerns about the property tax increase: former Minnesota Viking and Pro Football Hall of Famer Carl Eller.
Eller, 77, told council members the assessed property taxes for land he owns near Bassett Creek are expected to go up by 43% next year. “Imagine what that [will be] when there is some construction or development there,” he said, calling the increase “unreasonable.”
On Wednesday night Kathleen Sullivan, a psychotherapist from Powderhorn who has worked in crisis outreach, seemed to support the increase. She noted that the budget sets aside money to help people who are homeless or struggling with opioid addiction.
She said, “I feel like we need big change and, yes, it’s going to require big investment, and I am here for that.”