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Minneapolis’ billion-dollar budget increases street repairs, reorganizes city operations

Realigned departments are meant to create a “one-stop shopping” experience for builders.

Minneapolis will enter the second year of a five-year plan to increase investment in infrastructure.
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

A $1.085 billion city budget that increases road work and reorganizes a major department was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Minneapolis City Council, with Mayor R.T. Rybak there in the role of cheerleader.

The property tax levy for 2013 is up 1.77 percent from this year. But despite that increase, an estimated 70 percent of property taxpayers will see no increase next year, and many will see their city tax bill decrease.

Owners of a median-value home of $185,725 will pay $1,268 in city property taxes during 2013.  That compares to $1,340 in city taxes on the 2012 median-value home of $194,400.

Most of the budget discussion focused on the reorganization of Regulatory Services that sent units dealing with construction, development and business licenses to Community Planning and Economic Development to create a “one-stop shopping” experience for builders.

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“We’re saying to businesses — from beginning to end — we’re on your side,” said Rybak. The reorganization saves Minneapolis $300,000 to $400,000 a year by eliminating three top-level managers. “We are not eliminating any people involved directly with service work,” he said.

“This is a big deal,” said Council Member Lisa Goodman, who called the reorganization a more “streamlined approach” to working with those who are investing in Minneapolis.

The new structure places city inspectors, traffic control, animal control and fire inspections in a downscaled Regulatory Services department. Environmental Management moved to the Department of Health and Family support.

“There is a lot to like in this if you are someone who cares about government reform,” said Goodman.

Minneapolis will enter the second year of a five-year plan to increase investment in infrastructure. The first year of the plan added 104 miles of street improvements. The road work, paid thorough the sale of bonds, is possible because Minneapolis has paid off $241 million in bond debt and restored its AAA credit rating since 2002.

The number of road miles to be improved in 2013 has not been determined, but the prospect of an increase in road repair produced what might be the best quote by a sitting Minneapolis mayor since Charlie Stenvig left office in 1978.

“We’re going to pave a boatload of streets, and this is a big honking deal,” said an obviously delighted Rybak after council members approved the budget.