Minneapolis officials will decide in the coming weeks whether to hire more police officers, how to fund the 2020 elections and how to combat the opioid epidemic.
Those topics, combined with affordable housing programs and property taxes, are expected to be discussed as the Minneapolis City Council weighs whether to approve Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed $1.6 billion budget or change it. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, and council members are expected to introduce amendments Friday.
Another public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 11.
“City Council has been thinking about what they like about the mayor’s proposal, what they might do a little bit differently, and folks in City Hall have been working on that,” said Micah Intermill, budget director for the city of Minneapolis.
Just as in neighboring St. Paul, the brunt of the negotiations will likely revolve around the city’s public safety budget. Amid a plea from Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Frey requested 14 new police officers, a majority of whom would walk a beat in key pockets of the city.
Some council members have voiced concerns about adding officers instead of allocating more money toward other public safety measures. Others say it is not enough — Council Member Lisa Goodman called it “a drop in the bucket” of what was needed earlier this year.
Frey also pledged more than $400,000 for strategies to tackle opioid abuse as the city grapples with its largest number of drug overdoses in at least a dozen years. There were several recommendations presented by a regional task force earlier this year, and Frey’s proposal calls for hiring an additional employee to help develop a program.
Less contentious are several affordable housing initiatives. After a year of passing policies to strengthen tenant rights, council members are likely to support the additional $31 million put toward affordable housing programs, including a trust fund distributed to developers building or preserving affordable housing and a program that assists homeless students and their families.
The council might request additional funding. In a newsletter sent to constituents, Council President Lisa Bender said she was looking for $150,000 more to study the impacts of passing rent control in the city, which is in the early stages of discussion.
To fund his proposals, the mayor is asking the council to raise the property tax levy by 6.95%, a request that already received its first necessary approval from the city’s Board of Estimate & Taxation. For a home valued at $264,500, the city estimates that taxes would go up by $109.
At the same time, the mayor’s proposal sets aside an additional $8.4 million for salaries, wages and fringe benefits for many city employees. Under a policy approved in 2017, raises for the mayor and council members are calculated based on the raises that the city’s unions negotiate for their members. Some of those union agreements have already been approved by the council.
This year, the city must also set aside money for three major elections scheduled in 2020, including a presidential nominating primary, the first of its kind in Minnesota since 1992. The state is expected to reimburse the city for a portion of the costs for that additional primary, but the exact amount likely won’t be known until next year.
At the same time, Frey is asking the council for $480,000 to help boost security for the city’s computer systems, which are experiencing an increasing number of cyberattacks.
It’s unclear how many attacks have occurred. The city can’t always trace the origins of the attacks, but when it can, they often come from an IP address outside of the country, said Frey spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich. “These cyberattacks have not been successful in accessing large volumes of data,” Vlatkovich said, but in the “rare instance” when data was “put at risk,” the city contacts the FBI.