Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wants to add 14 sworn officers to the force, responding to the police chief’s plea but issuing a challenge to a skeptical City Council.

The addition of new officers is the most controversial element of Frey’s $1.6 billion budget, which calls for a 6.95% increase to the property tax levy that he said would help the city prepare for a potential downturn in the economy. Frey made the request in a budget address Thursday frequently interrupted by the jeers and chants of demonstrators protesting police violence.

In July, Chief Medaria Arradondo said the city needed to hire 400 patrol officers by 2025 in order to improve response times, a figure that was opposed by several council members. During his address Thursday, Frey said additional officers were necessary for a growing population and to allow officers to build relationships with residents.

“There is no time to waste on false choices and binary options in addressing the causes of crime and violence in our city,” Frey said during his address inside the City Council chambers. “We need safety beyond policing, but we still need police.”

A proposed $2.4 million would go toward hiring eight neighborhood outreach officers; three officers for the traffic unit; and three investigators and one civilian for sexual assault and domestic violence units. Frey is also requesting a couple of new civilian positions for the police department.

“Policing is more than just the squad-car response, it’s about building relationships,” Arradondo said after the address. “If there’s one child, if there’s one senior, one elder, one student that can be positively impacted by that additional beat officer … that’s a plus for us.”

Frey’s proposed budget also allocated millions of dollars toward improving the city’s neighborhoods and housing.

A one-time investment of $31 million would fund the city’s affordable housing programs, an amount second only to the $40 million approved in last year’s budget. Frey also said he had a plan to fill a $7 million gap for neighborhood organizations once their current source of municipal funding ends next year.

Cultural districts

Frey formally designated the city’s “cultural districts,” areas of the city that are largely populated by people of color and indigenous and immigrant communities. Six districts were identified: West Broadway Avenue, Central Avenue, Cedar-Riverside, East Lake Street, Franklin Avenue and 38th Street.

Under his proposed budget, the cultural districts would receive $750,000 toward lighting, litter pickup and facade improvements. A $2.5 million Commercial Property Development Fund would be created to issue no-interest loans for minority entrepreneurs to buy properties for their businesses, Frey said.

Frey also proposed allocating $404,000 to curb opioid abuse in the city and adding a social worker for homelessness and opioid outreach. The city would also invest an additional $500,000 in Village Financial Cooperative, a black-owned credit union in the North Side.

6.95% tax levy increase

Property taxes account for about a quarter of the city’s total budget. The 6.95% increase would boost the property tax levy to about $374 million. For a home valued at $264,500, the city estimates taxes will go up by $109.

The city is attributing the larger tax levy increase to inflation, one-time and ongoing expenses and “financial policy decisions,” according to budget documents. Frey is also making an ongoing contribution to the city’s contingency fund as “an insurance against hard times.”

“You know that an economy is cyclical and we’re not going to be booming forever,” Frey told reporters. “What we’ve done right now is set a foundation. We’ve made sure that regardless of what happens in our economy, Minneapolis is protected.”

Present in the council chambers were members of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Hennepin County commissioners and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who earlier in the day was barred from a planned trip to Israel by the country’s prime minister.

Frey’s budget address began behind schedule as people protesting police violence, including members of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, interrupted the meeting. Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, leading in the absence of Council President Lisa Bender, recessed the meeting.

Frey was constantly shouted over by protesters upset about police shootings and chanting the name of Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis officer in 2015. Jenkins called for the meeting to be recessed again and for security to clear the council chambers, but instead, Frey stood silently for a moment and resumed his address.

The City Council’s budget committee will discuss Frey’s proposed budget on Sept. 9. Hearings from city departments will continue through October, followed by public hearings starting in November and a council vote and adoption of the budget on Dec. 11.