On Aug. 15, Mayor Jacob Frey gave his annual budget address and presented his recommended budgets for 2023 and 2024 to the City Council for their consideration.
This formally kicks off the public process for one of the most significant council decisions of the year, approving the biennial budget for the next two years. It is set to conclude, following a series of committee meetings and public hearings, with a final vote on Dec. 6.
Although it is a two-year budget, for the second year the mayor is committed to submitting an amended budget in August 2023. In his speech he said that a biennial budget would provide greater trust and is a way “we can blow by that old normal.” City Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) noted in a newsletter to constituents that the biennial budget is “a new process for the city that aims to provide cost and time savings, and better long-term planning.”
Frey is recommending spending $3.3 billion over the two years, with $1.66 billion in 2023 and $1.71 billion in 2024. To accomplish this, he recommends raising the tax levy 6.5% next year and 6.2% in 2024. If approved that will raise the total amount levied by $27 million in 2023, and $27.6 million in 2024 and will likely mean many property owners will see increases in their property taxes. The city finance department estimates that the levy increase of 6.5% will result in the property taxes for a median value home going up $167 annually. This is not factoring changes to property valuations, which have increased throughout the city and will push this further upwards.
“He proposes a lot of funding increases and new spending, including millions of additional dollars for public infrastructure, public safety, and affordable housing subsidies,” wrote Johnson.
In his address, Frey highlighted affordable housing, city capacity and performance, climate and public health, economic inclusion and public safety as budget priorities for the next two years.
Unlike Johnson, Council Member Jason Chavez (Ward 9), is new to the council and has not approved a city budget in the past. He started formally working on it well before the mayor released his proposal. On Aug. 3 at Powderhorn Park, he hosted what he hopes to be the first of many Ward 9 community budgeting meetings for the 2023 budget. “Residents were clear about the disinvestment in our neighborhoods and the need for our voices to be reflected on this budget,” he noted after the meeting.
At a table he set up for the recent Open Streets event on Lake Street, Chavez made the budget a focus and used it to have what he termed, “intentional conversations regarding the 2023 Minneapolis City Budget.” The results of an unscientific poll asking people to pick their budget priority were as follows: affordable/public housing – 68; gun violence prevention – 35; a youth investment fund- 28; the people’s climate and equity plan – 29; road/pedestrian safety – 25; urban farm development. – 22; parks – 20; office of community safety – 17; economic development on Lake St. – 14; addressing the opioid crisis – 12; the police department – 5.
Frey’s proposal includes a $3 million increase for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, $2.7 million more for the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) with an ongoing $1 million commitment, as well as $600,000 in ongoing funds for opioid addiction treatment services.
Following the mayor’s budget address Council Member Emily Koski (Ward 11) said, “I’m glad to see the investment being made into the expansion of our Behavioral Crisis Response program. I hope this investment can support us moving to providing Behavioral Crisis Response services 24/7.” The mayor has recommended expanding the Behavioral Crisis Response program with a $1.45 million investment in 2023 and increasing that to $2.9 million in 2024.
Koski also said, “I am grateful to see all of the investments into basic city services – our bread and butter here in the city of Minneapolis.” Among many investments in basic services, Frey is calling for an additional $3.88 million in 2023 and $4.37 million in 2024 to improves roads, trails and 311 response.
Koski is organizing a Ward 11 budget community meeting for October or November where there will be a presentation on the 2023-2024 recommended budget and opportunities for public participation.
Ward 2 Council Member, Robin Wonsley, is also planning a ward-level community meeting. She is calling it a “budget summit” and plans to hold it in the first week of October.
While Wonsley sees some positives in the budget, including funding to support reproductive rights and better lighting, especially in the University Area, she also has concerns.
She wonders if some of the investments in public safety are “premature” noting that the police department “has been the one department that has put the entire city and taxpayers in a financial bind” and “has really not done anything right now proactive to address that.”
The mayor’s proposal has funding for 731 sworn officers in 2023 and 783 in 2024 in the police department and four classes of new recruits in each year of the budget, as well as $8.6 million for overtime and $1.5 million for contracting with other law enforcement entities to provide services for the city. “There is no parity,” said Wonsley. “Most of the resources will be going to MPD. Why not invest more in violence prevention?” She suggests expanding the use of unarmed personnel, like the violence interrupters, who could be city employees and “help fill the shortage on the MPD.”
She also would like more investment in climate justice, winter sidewalk clearance, public housing and to support the legislative side, or the council, in any city government restructuring. The mayor has proposed creating or moving six new positions into the audit department and one in the clerk’s office over the next two years. These are the two divisions (beyond the council itself) that the council has direct authority over. Calling it “an anemic investment in the legislative side,” she wants to see the council have more professional policy staff and their own independent legal resources and staff.
The Board of Estimate and Taxation President Samantha Pree-Stinson also has concerns about the budget. Two goals she cited in her campaign and as priorities for her first year in office – reparations and restoring the city’s housing levy – were not directly included in the proposed budget. Pree-Stinson said that she is hoping to work with Wonsley and others to fund the housing levy to make an ongoing annual investment to public housing. She is also concerned about the overall levy increaseand how “increasing taxes will disproportionally affect Black people.” She wants to see some support for those most in need. “If we prioritize economic justice and prioritize things like public bathrooms, fountains, charging stations, safe use and needle exchanges, cooling and warming stations,” she said, “it will help.”
There will be plenty of time for the City Council to consider those, and other options in the months ahead. They will formally begin reviewing the proposed biennial budget at committee meetings in September. The Board of Estimate and Taxation will hold a public hearing on the levy on Sept. 14 and the council will hold public hearings on Nov. 10, Nov. 15, and before the final budget adoption on Dec. 6, 2022.
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