Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey unveiled a budget plan Friday that seeks to restore police funding to nearly the level it was before George Floyd's killing.
The mayor's $1.6 billion spending plan, announced during a virtual speech, includes nearly $192 million for the Minneapolis Police Department, whose fate will come before voters in the November election.
"Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis became ground zero in the debate around the future of public safety and a case study in the dangers of grand pronouncements with little planning," Frey said, referring to a pledge some council members made last summer to work toward ending the department.
He said that while the city has invested in other safety programs, "It would be disingenuous to expect these new, complementary programs to succeed simply by breaking down the work of others."
Frey's 25-minute speech touched on a question that has dogged city officials since Floyd's death in May 2020: If they want to build violence prevention and mental health programs, should they use police funding to do that, or draw from other pools of money?
The mayor's speech kicked off a monthslong budget negotiation process that will finish in December, weeks after the election but before the next class of elected officials is sworn in. Besides increased funding for violence prevention, Frey proposed plans to boost affordable housing and programs aimed at cutting carbon emissions.
Policing, though, is the subject that has captured national attention, as people wait to see whether — and how — Minneapolis will fulfill a promise to transform public safety in the wake of Floyd's murder by a police officer.
Policing and public safety have become central issues in the races for mayor and City Council, and political committees campaigning for and against the replacement of the Police Department have brought in more than $1 million this year alone.
To pay for his spending plan, Frey would rely on a 5.45% property tax levy increase, federal American Rescue Plan funds and cash on hand. The city estimates the levy increase would amount to $140 for an owner-occupied home valued at $297,000, $360 for an apartment building valued at just more than $1 million and $186 for a commercial building valued at $529,000.
The Minneapolis Police Department began 2020 with a budget of about $193 million, an amount that was later reduced amid the coronavirus pandemic and a national debate on policing after Floyd's killing.
As they settled on spending figures for the police in 2021, Frey and a divided City Council intensely debated whether police funding should be used to increase violence prevention and mental health programs.
They settled on a $164 million police budget for this year — with the caveat that police could access an additional $11 million in reserves if they received approval from the City Council. With that money since released, and American Rescue Plan funding infused, the Police Department now has about $180 million to spend this year.
Frey wants to add more money in 2022, giving the department a $191.9 million budget. His plan calls for adding five recruit and cadet classes in hopes of giving the department a monthly average staffing of 756 officers.
Among other proposals, the budget includes money to contract with mutual aid agencies, provide overtime to work with violence prevention teams, increase health and wellness programs, and purchase an early intervention program to flag problematic behavior among officers.
Asked in a news conference about his push to replenish police funding, Frey said, "It's not about the funding level. It's about the resources and personnel that we need to keep people safe in our city."
To get his proposal passed, Frey must win support from a majority of City Council members who have rejected portions of his plan in the past. The council last fall shot down a plan to purchase an early intervention system, after some council members raised concerns that prior efforts to start one had failed.
Reached Friday afternoon, many of the council members who led the push to move police funding to other departments said they weren't yet ready to discuss the mayor's proposal
"I haven't even had a chance to see it yet," Council Member Phillipe Cunningham said. "We've been trying to find it."
Some of the candidates campaigning to unseat Frey in the fall election were quick to offer their thoughts. Candidate Kate Knuth said in a statement that she would have included more than the $7.8 million Frey proposed for the Office of Violence Prevention. Candidate Sheila Nezhad said on Twitter that the city needs "investments in the PEOPLE," such as housing, education and mental health.
Frey's proposal includes an additional $500,000 for youth programming in the Office of Violence Prevention and about $106,000 to hire a body-worn-camera analyst in the Department of Civil Rights.
Besides the public safety funding, the mayor proposed a "rebuilding" component for many city departments, allowing them to hire workers to fill slots left vacant amid a hiring freeze enacted after the coronavirus pandemic began.
The plan also includes $100,000 to update the city's Climate Action Plan and $75,000 to implement a social cost of carbon program, which would allow officials to place a price tag on carbon emissions and factor that into contracts when deciding which ones to award.
The proposal continues funding for multiple affordable housing programs and adds $1 million for a partnership with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority that seeks to boost the amount of deeply affordable housing aimed at helping some of the residents with the lowest incomes.
Staff Writer Faiza Mahamud contributed to this report.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994