Minneapolis got some good news Wednesday on a couple of fronts, one of them financial.
The city has the lowest general obligation bond debt it has carried since 1990. That’s especially good news for property tax payers because that’s the revenue source for paying off this form of debt.
And there is more: The Minneapolis Police Department is now hiring.
So far, 13 community service officers have been hired, and 15 more are scheduled to be hired in 2013. With a recruit class of 28 that begins training in March, that will total 56 hires. This will bring the number of sworn officers to 850, an increase of seven from the current level.
The police department, however, is not without its troubles. So far this year, 23 sworn officers have retired, and another five are expected to resign before January. It is an aging department, with 67 percent age 40 or above. Next year, 74 are eligible for retirement.
Assistant Chief Janee Harteau told members of the City council’s Ways and Means/Budget Committee that attrition is one of the things that keep her awake at night. In 2017, the number of those eligible to retire will reach an estimated 187.
Harteau, who has been nominated to replace retiring Chief Tim Dolan, recalled that when she joined the department 25 years ago, it was not unusual to have two or three recruitcClasses every year.
“We get to hire the next generation of police officers,” she told council members, adding that she sees this as an opportunity to “seek out the best of the best.”
The City also will be losing six crime prevention specialists, who work to educate community organizations and promote crime awareness and risk reduction. This year, Minneapolis received one-time funding to add six specialists for a total of 17. Bringing the six back next year would require additional funding of $500,000.
Mike the Debt Guy
Michael Abein is officially the director of capital and debt management for Minneapolis. He answers the phone and signs off from presentations with “Mike the Debt Guy.”
To put general obligation bond debt into perspective, Abein compares 2012 with 2004, the peak of general obligation bond debt, totaling $1.3 billion. At the end of this year, Minneapolis’ total will be $782.9 million,a reduction of $636 million.
The amount Minneapolis can use is regulated by state statute. This year the city was allowed to use $1.1 billion in debt but used only $200 million.
“I would advocate that capacity to pay is more important than capacity to issue,” said Abein. He then explained bonded debt proposals for the next five years for Public Works, Technology, the Park Board and a category labeled Miscellaneous.
I will spare you.
What happens next?
The two hearings mark the end of budget presentations. There will be a public hearing on the proposed budget Nov. 28 at 6:05 p.m. in Room 317 of Minneapolis City Hall.
Council members will debate the budget twice. These meetings are not public hearings, but they are open to the public. Those meetings are Dec. 5 at 9:30 a.m. and Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 317l.
The final public hearing and final council vote will take place Dec. 12 at 6:05 p.m. in Room 317 of Minneapolis City Hall.