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Minneapolis budget hearing draws no property tax complaints

The 2014 budget calls for a 1 percent decrease in the total property tax levy.

In a rare occurrence, no one came forward to complain about their proposed 2014 property taxes during Wednesday’s public hearing on next year’s Minneapolis budget.

In other years, Truth-in-Taxation statements have produced long lines of property-tax protesters at the Council Chambers’ microphone. Not so this year.

The budget, proposed by Mayor R.T. Rybak, is $1.119 billion, a 2.2 percent increase, or $24.5 million. That budget calls for a 1 percent decrease in the total property tax levy, a cut of $4.1 million.

An increase in state aid — from $64.1 million in 2013 to $76.1 million, or $12 million — plus money available but not spent in the current year produced the decrease in next year’s tax levy.

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The lack of controversy left plenty of time for other issues to be heard, including three funding requests:

• “Today I ask that you become a true friend of the animals of Minneapolis,” said Matt Kordrucsek of Citizens for Minneapolis Animal Control. He voiced support for a recent city policy change that makes more dogs available for adoption from Minneapolis Animal Care and Control.

Previously, pit bulls and other “bully” breeds were not available for adoption. Under the new rules, all dogs will be evaluated for their adoptability without restrictions on breeds.

Kordrucsek wanted to make sure the city department is adequately funded so it can comply with the new policy.

“The true cost will be far less than the amount that has been asked for, as the program will increase revenue through adoption and registration fees,” he said.

• The Neighborhood Community Engagement Commission, a new city board designed to advise the mayor and City Council on community issues, also would like more money.

“I humbly request that you, in your budget deliberations, turn some rocks over and see if there are more funds for us,” said Ishmael Israel, a member of the commission, which received 30 applications from neighborhood and ethnic groups for program funding but can only accept three.

The commission, which had requested $500,000 in funding but is scheduled to receive $62,000, will be funding programs for at-risk youth, adult Latinos and members of the Laotian community.

The $62,000 in funding is “great for a pilot project,” said Israel, but it leaves 27 funding requests on the table.

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• The Minnesota Tenants Union also is pushing for additional funding for city housing inspectors.

It estimates that Minneapolis has 60,290 rental housing units in buildings with four or more dwellings. There are currently three housing inspectors assigned to those buildings with the addition of a fourth inspector in the 2014 budget.

“We have concerns for what we view as substantial under-funding of the staff that is charged with enforcing the Minneapolis housing code,” said Peter W. Brown of the Tenants Union. “Poor housing is, in fact, one of the roots of racial disparity,”

Council members gave no indication of support, or rejection, for any of the requests.

The next step in the budget process takes place Dec. 4 and 5 during what is billed as “budget mark up,” when council members make final decisions about the 2014.

Those meetings will be followed a Dec. 11 public hearing and final passage of the budget.