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City Hall Wi-Fi put on hold as Minneapolis tweaks city budget

If your laptop doesn’t work at Minneapolis City Hall, you can blame the City Council.

The money to bring Wi-Fi to every nook and cranny of the building has been diverted to fund an auditor and restore some proposed cuts to the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network.

The Employee Computing Mobility Program had $240,000 in the budget recommended by Mayor R.T. Rybak.  It now has $80,000.

 On Tuesday, the Ways and Means/Budget Committee took $100,000 for MTN.  On Wednesday, they came back and took $60,000 to fund an auditor. The mayor’s budget had removed one auditor to save $100,000.

Council Member Diane Hofstede proposed taking money from the Neighborhood and Community Relations Program to fund the auditor job. Her colleagues liked the idea of adding the auditor but not her funding source.

During a break, Hofstede huddled with the financial staff and found $60,000 in the already-depleted fund to bring Wi-Fi to City Hall.  This time, her colleagues approved.

When there is no money to spend, the idea of increasing fees usually occurs to someone, and in this case, it was Council Member Gary Schiff.

On Tuesday, he suggested charging those who apply for a liquor license with the cost of doing the required criminal background check.  That cost is currently covered by the Minneapolis Police Department.  

On Wednesday, he came back with a plan that would charge a license applicant for any expense incurred by the Minneapolis Fire Department as they investigate the application and the project.  Those expenses are currently paid by the Minneapolis Fire Department.

And Schiff didn’t stop there.

At his suggestion, the city will increase the fees for land use applications by 3.5 percent and also raise the price of the zoning re-inspection fee from $150 to $200.  The two fee increases are expected to generate $95,000, which is enough to add one zoning inspector.

“A city without the ability to enforce its zoning code is not one we want,” said Schiff.

Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy moved $700,000 from the mayor’s budget for traffic signals to instead fund pavement maintenance equipment. The money comes from bond funding.

She also moved the senior ombudsman from the Health and Family Support Program to the Neighborhood and Community Relations Program by transferring the $106,000 that funds the position.

And if you were worried about your garbage fees paying for the removal of graffiti from city property, worry no more. That cost will now be covered by the operating budgets for the “infrastructure where the graffiti land,” thanks to Colvin Roy.

The end of the budget process is in sight. Circle Dec. 14 on your calendar for a 6:05 p.m. public hearing in Room 317, followed by a City Council meeting where members can again amend the budget before an expected final vote.

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