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Minneapolis TV network facing more budget cuts

The City Council also took a look at 2013 budgets for 311 and 911 communications and emergency management.

The good news for the folks at the Minneapolis Television Network is that Mayor R.T. Rybak has recommended that their budget for 2013 be cut by only $150,000. Last year, he recommended a cut of $250,000.

The recommended MTN budget for next year is $463,233, down by $150,000, or 25 percent, from 2012.

Last year’s $613,233 total is a relatively small budget, at least when compared with some of the big departments, such as Public Works at $308 million or the Police Department’s $136 million.

Over the last year, the staff has been cut by 25 percent, from 12.5 full-time-equivalent staffers to 9.5 full-time equivalents.

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“We are very bare bones on staff,” said the newly hired MTN director, Michael Fallon, when he presented the proposed budget to the City council’s Ways and Means/Budget Committee.

MTN provides electronic access to community groups through training in the use of broadcast equipment and offering studio space.

New for next year is a proposal to step up fundraising activities through fundraising events, membership drives and increased efforts to get grants. This year, MTN received $2,000 in grants; next year’s goal is $42,500.

This year, MTN has received $15,160 in donations and sponsorships.Next year’s goal is $23,500.

“We do have a strong community that has never been asked to support us,” said Fallon. MTN also has plans for new programming, such as the Oct. 26 broadcast “Youth and Politics,” which is designed to give a voice to young people in this election year.

“I find the ‘Youth and Politics’ to be fabulous,” said Council Member Meg Tuthill, who encouraged Fallon to find other community partnerships.

“In the two months I’ve been here, I’ve been looking at any partnerships that might be available,” said Fallon. During the budget process a year ago, the former director was asked to find partnerships with other communities and organizations.

Another project — “13 ways of looking at Minneapolis” — will be based on the city’s 13 wards and the year 2013. It’s meant to attract local artists.

“We’re trying to find ways to tap into the creative community,” he told council members.  Artists will be invited to submit their work for possible broadcast.

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“You have really had a bath of fire,” said Council Elizabeth Glidden to Fallon.  “Diversifying the revenue is key to the health of MTN.”

Even with increased fundraising, the 2013 MTN budget would be $46,000 in the red.  Fallon asked council members to increase its budget by that amount, a 10 percent increase above the mayor’s recommendation, to allow MTN to increase revenue-generating efforts.

311 budget

There is now an app for those seeking city services. Next year, there will be a texting possibility. And residents also can take a photo a neighbor’s unshoveled sidewalk and send it downtown electronically.

The 2013 recommended budget for the 311 communications program is $3.1 million, about $160,000 more than this year’s. The proposed increase would restore $125,000 cut last year by the City Council, which transferred the money to its budget and that of the city clerk.

The department’s 28 full-time-equivalent workers include five who work from home.  They take calls from those requesting service or seeking information about the city.

The call volume is down from a year ago, and 311 Director Don Stickney attributes that to the mild winter. Still, there were 1,300 calls on Columbus Day, when the city was officially closed, and there can be 800 calls over a weekend, making Monday a very busy day for the 311 staff.

“One of the things we have to watch for is burnout,” said Stickney, who has no overtime budget. The goal is to take a call within 25 to 30 seconds. “We are very near the top compared to the rest of the industry.”

His goals for next year include hiring more Spanish speakers and converting vacant full-time jobs to part time to add more staff on the busy days early in the workweek.

The 311 app for 311 is available on the city’s website here and on some smart phone app sites.

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Emergency management funding

A year ago, the Emergency Management budget included $3.1 million in federal grants. This year, it will get less than $1 million.

“We have to look at the issues of going off grants,” said Emergency Management Director Barret Lane, who added that the competition for grants is increasing as their numbers diminish.

The department is also making a transition from being part of Regulatory Services to a stand-alone budget.

“We don’t have a lot of history,” said Lane. The proposed budget includes $692,649 from the General Fund and $999,882 in federal grants for a total of $1.69 million.

911 budget

The mayor’s recommended budget for 911 Emergency Communications is $8.1 million, with $7.6 million coming from the General Fund. The proposed budget also includes $575,480 in state grant money, down 7 percent.

The department would keep its 78 full-time-equivalent workers.

New on the horizon is a statewide 911 system now being built. To access that system, the city will need to spend an estimated $180,000 on software plus additional money on staff training.