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Minneapolis committee makes ‘quick work’ of budget tweaking

Budget wonks had expected about nine hours of work, but the City Council committee wrapped up in under three hours.

The budget wonks arrived at the City Council Chambers Wednesday morning lugging notebooks, stacks of paper and iPads. They did not expect to see the light of day again until the next morning as they looked at the potential for nine hours of number-crunching and re-arranging spread out across two days.

Nine hours, even for someone who likes budgets, is a lot of time spent talking about numbers.

And then something magical happened.

The Ways and Means/Budget Committee finished its mark-up of Mayor R.T. Rybak’s 2013 budget in two and a half hours. It was like a snow day for the wonks.

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There had been a bit of a dust-up in the morning about plans to reorganize the Regulatory Services Department, but that was apparently resolved during the lunch break and was quickly approved when everyone returned in the afternoon.

The hot topic of discussion in the morning had been the addition of two 911 operators who would be paid for by moving funds from Human Resources and by going slow in replacing people who quit or retire.

The Human Resources Department had asked for 11 more full-time-equivalent workers to handle a huge wave of retirements expected in the next few years. The department originally got seven of the 11. But now they will emnd up with six, a number that the director of Employee Services says is “workable.”

“I have grave concerns about this,” said Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who added a little later, “I think this is an area where we have to say, ‘We’re not going to cut more.’ ”

“This is not a cut,” said Ways and Means/Budget Chair Betsy Hodges. “This is a reduction in the increase for 2013.”

The committee approved moving the funds from Human Resources to 911 staffing. It also approved the use of $510,000 in un-used 2011 money to keep six crime prevention specialists in the Police Department for a total of 17.

The Minneapolis Television Network, which has a new director who has a new plan, will get $46,000 of un-used 2012 money that will let him keep two workers he needs to get that new plan off the ground.

And there was good news for any resident with garbage. Your bill for solid waste and recycling  services will drop from $24.70 a month to $17 a month.

The budget will be the topic of a public hearing on Wednesday, Dec.12, at 6:05 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. The hearing will be followed by a City Council vote on the budget.