The Minneapolis City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a roughly $1.8 billion taxing-and-spending plan for next year that prioritizes public safety — both traditional policing and alternatives — as well as responses to climate change.
Despite frequently splitting on controversial matters, all 13 council members last week coalesced behind the budget after making dozens of changes around the edges in consultation with Mayor Jacob Frey, who has said he was "optimistic" about signing it.
Under the plan, the city would increase the total amount of money raised from property taxes by 6.2%. The owner of a $331,000 home in Minneapolis would see an increase ranging from $150 to $160 in property taxes.
That figure would include a resurrected tax by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority that would cost the owner of the same home about $21 a year. That money would add $4 million annually to the MPHA, which is grappling with a $229 million backlog of repairs.
City residents and businesses would pay in other ways for some aspects of the plan. A hike in electricity and natural gas fees, to pay for parts of the city's climate response plan, would cost residents and businesses an estimated $8 to $12 annually. That would generate an estimated $10 million annually, with about half of that money in the first year targeted at weatherizing buildings, starting with insulating attics and walls, and plugging drafts in homes.
And water bills would increase about 16 cents a month to evaluate the state of stormwater systems on park district land.
Other taxing bodies, such as Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Schools, set their property-tax-and-spending plans independently of the city.
The council's vote was expected to follow Tuesday's final public hearing on the budget proposal. Inside the third floor of City Hall, scores of people packed an overflow room and snaked through the hallways, with many signing up to speak publicly on a panoply of issues.
Among them were perhaps 60 unionized city public works employees who carried a refrain that they were underpaid and understaffed. Dozens of people carried signs against a potential clearing of a homeless encampment that one speaker described as a "healing space" to help Indigenous people with addiction. A group of American Indian activists sang to a beating drum outside the packed council chambers later chanting "Let us in!" One woman put her phone on speaker while she called a homeless hotline to illustrate the shortage of beds in shelters.
Some spoke in favor of spending more money to recruit police officers, drawing both cheers and jeers from those outside. One man who said he was mugged and beaten by a group of men called alternatives to traditional policing "naive."
A woman spoke out against infrastructure that favors bicycles over parking, while a man spoke in favor of that idea. One man praised council members for coming together over the budget.
The budget funds a police force of 731 sworn officers — the amount required by the city's charter. Officer ranks have continued to shrink, with roughly 580 on the force as of mid-November. It's hardly assured that those empty slots will be filled; the current budget also funded those positions.
The plan also allots $16 million next year for dozens of hires to comply with a state court settlement and anticipated federal consent decree to change the culture of the Police Department, including rooting out its history of racist practices.
The budget also funds a number of public safety measures that fall outside traditional policing, including $3 million to pilot unarmed neighborhood "safety ambassadors" in a number of cultural districts and expanding the city's behavioral crisis response teams — specialists tasked with emergency calls better suited for mental health workers than armed police officers.
Snow removal etc.
Among other budget highlights:
- $595,000 will fund several sidewalk-shoveling pilot programs that aim to clear snow from priority pedestrian areas and focus on property owners who repeatedly fail to shovel their sidewalks, starting next fall.
- The city's Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs would receive $150,000 for an additional employee to focus on needs of refugees newly arriving in Minneapolis.
- The Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Department would get a $500,000 boost for the city's truth and reconciliation process.