Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, in the final budget speech of his 12-year stint, proposed today a 1 percent cut in city property taxes for 2014.
He told City Council members that increased state aid, savings from a rainy day fund and some city relief from the Legislature as part of the Viking stadium deal are responsible for the cut.
Without those factors, the city was looking at a 2.8 percent increase just to stay even, he said.
“The bottom line is, that in tough times, we asked residents to give a little more to keep Minneapolis strong. Now that things are improving, they can give a little less,” Rybak said.
His comments echoed those Wednesday by his St. Paul counterpart, Mayor Chris Coleman, who also credited increased state aid for his proposal not to raise that city property tax levy.
Rybak is not seeking re-election in November, after serving three four-year terms.
Some proposals Rybak made in the speech:
- Expanding the 311 city information/complaint line to Saturdays
- Funding more police officers and firefighters
- Adding a pilot program to send EMTs to medical emergencies in SUVs, rather than fire trucks
- Establishing air quality stations in 85 locations around the city, so anti-pollution efforts can be targeted
- Removing cars from 29th Street in south Minneapolis, to make it a pedestrian throughway.
- Dedicating $16 million more in the capital budget for road and infrastructure repair
- Continuing work on a planned Nicollet streetcar line, and beginning planning for a streetcar line on Washington and West Broadway
Council Member Betsy Hodges, considering one of the top contenders in the race to replace Rybak, was quick to comment, saying she approves of the budget:
“Besides giving taxpayers crucial relief at a time when we need to stimulate a recovering economy, this budget reflects our values as a community. We will hire thirty police cadets, twenty community services officers, and forty-five firefighters.
“We are making investments in trails, sidewalks, and roads, connecting neighborhoods in new and better ways. We are prioritizing transit and increasing our investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. New investments in air quality and tree planting are positive steps in our ongoing commitment toward making Minneapolis a greener city.”
Council Member Don Samuels, also a mayorol contender, was cited by Rybak as a “rock solid” partner on previous efforts to stabilize city finances.
Samuels’ campaign responded to the speech with a statement that said, in part:
“Mayor Rybak outlined a series of very tough decisions over the course of a decade that put Minneapolis in the right financial position to take some of the pressure off of property taxes, and that without even one of those decisions, today’s announcement would not have been possible. They include controlling spending, paying down debt, reforming the city’s pensions, increasing efficiency of service delivery, and the financial package surrounding the Viking’s stadium deal, which took $5 Million of tax burden per year off the city budget and increased control over sales tax revenue.”
Mark Andrew, the former Hennepin County commissioner who is considered another top contender in the mayor’s race, said Rybak’s budget highlights:
“…our shared vision for substantial advancements in transit and sustainability while making improvements to control property taxes. His commitment to fiscal responsibility is a strong beginning to further reducing taxes in the forthcoming years. My campaign has already endorsed a number of the initiatives outlined today, so we are very pleased with today’s announcement. He deserves praise for this document that articulates a great vision for the future of our city.”
Rybak also said in the speech that the city should plan to have 500,000 residents by 2025 (it had about 393,000 at the end of 2012).
“With more residents, the amenities get better and there are more people to share the costs,” he said.
Rybak also addressed recent incidents of apparent racism involving city police officers. He said the majority of police officers are doing great work to protect residents and build bridges in the community, “but when one person makes one comment, on duty or off duty, it jeopardizes every single bridge we’ve built.”
He said: “We will not let a small amount of people on the department ruin the work being done in the city.”
He proposed funding to “put every single officer through cultural competency training within one year. “There’s no place for racism of discrimination” he said.