As Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
I laid out my values – and my proposed 2015 budget – last Thursday at City Hall in my first budget address. You can also watch the video of the speech here.
In coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more details about my proposed budget, what’s in it for residents, and how you can share your feedback. But today, I wanted to give you just a quick overview.
I offer a budget that has been deliberately crafted with intention, focusing on the three themes of the work that you elected me to do: Running the city well. Growth. Equity.
Last fall, more than anything, we voted for a city focused on eliminating the gaps that divide us by race. A study this year shows that unless we eliminate these gaps, we in this region will short ourselves $32 billion in personal income by 2040. There is something in it for each and every one of us when each and every one of us has unfettered opportunities to thrive.
While we are entering a period of growth, people of color are not sharing equally in it. For Minneapolis to maximize our growth potential, both short-term and long-term, we must make certain everyone can benefit from and contribute to our growth.
For these reasons, I have proposed a number of new investments in equity in my budget, including:
- More City dollars for affordable housing, and a new initiative to promote home ownership in communities of color, in order to rebuild wealth in our neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
- Additional support for helping entrepreneurs and small-business owners of color in growing jobs and wealth.
- Support for youth-violence prevention, and extending the effective work of downtown youth-outreach workers.
- For the first time ever, adding resources to develop the City’s own equity work, in order to ensure the most equitable outcomes for residents and our employees.
When we voted last fall, we voted to make crucial steps forward like these for the health and vitality of our entire city. We voted for equity, knowing that growth is required to meet those goals and for all our city’s goals.
As a result, when we voted, we voted for growth.
Growth in cities is quickly becoming the status quo rather than a new trend, and Minneapolis is leading this trend. When we are intentional and deliberate, our investments in growth can both help accelerate our pace of growth and help increase our quality of life that more people are sharing in.
Some of the ways that my budget helps grow Minneapolis are:
- Fully funding the investment in the redesign of Nicollet Mall. Governor Dayton, the Legislature, and the downtown business community have already invested, and now we are adding our share to this long-term investment in our economic vitality.
- The first investments in a network of protected bike lanes, many of which will be in diverse and low-income neighborhoods in Minneapolis.
- A new transportation-planning division that will allow us to keep ahead of future projects.
Finally, my budget invests in the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal in North Minneapolis. Now that the lock and dam will soon be closed for good, we have an opportunity to map out a future where North Minneapolis finally has its own valuable riverfront amenities.
Running the city well
Unless we do the basics well – plow the streets, keep them safe, and care for our environment – we will not reach our vision for growth or equity. In this budget, I propose we continue to invest deply in these essential functions. My proposed budget supports:
- Ten more police officers, for an authorized strength of 860 sworn officers. It also supports more classes of community service officers, which boost the diversity of our police force, and an additional police cadet class for 2015.
- The implementation of body cameras for officers, which protects officers from frivolous claims and provide more transparency for residents in their interactions with officers. A pilot program is ready to being this fall, with full implementation next year.
- Two recruit classes in the Fire Department, and the department’s Explorer program, which recruits Minneapolis high school students into careers in firefighting and emergency response.
- More 911 operators.
- A comprehensive pedestrian-safety initiative.
Finally, in my budget, I propose implementing curbside organics recycling in every Minneapolis neighborhood in 2015. It’s been a popular and successful pilot project in a few neighborhoods, and it’s time for the whole city to reap the benefit.
We are grateful to be coming out of the recession, but we are still dealing with the aftermath of the economic crisis, not to mention a decade of State cuts to Minneapolis that were stabilized only last year by Governor Dayton and the majorities in the Legislature.
For a decade, in order to make up for cuts, recessions, and other issues like debt and pensions, we had to raise property taxes above inflation, while making significant cuts to key services. For years, residents paid more and more, and received less.
More recently, we were able to cut the property-tax levy last year, and hold it at zero or below inflation for the two years before that. It was the right thing to do. But when we don’t account for inflation, holding the levy flat means a cut to public safety and the services that our residents count on.
And while Minneapolis is growing, growth in the property-tax base does not automatically mean growth in the City’s coffers.
We must catch up with inflation if we wish to keep our basic services – already cut to the bone – functioning. To do that requires increasing the amount of money that we raise in property taxes in order to meet this year’s inflation factor – and do some catching up to years past, to make the investments that the voters asked us to make. For these reasons, I am proposing a 2.4% levy increase for 2015.
Over half of this proposed increase is simply to account for inflation and natural rises in the cost of maintaining just our current services. And much of the rest of it helps pay for our increased investments in public safety and running the city well.
Even with this modest, largely inflationary increase in the property-tax levy, half of Minneapolis’ residential properties will see no increase, or will even see a decrease, in the City portion of their property taxes.
When we voted last fall we knew it would take all of us putting our shoulder to the wheel to get where we want to go together. We knew that all of us do better when we all do better. That’s what this budget does – intentionally and deliberately moves us forward together to our best future through investment in ourselves. When we voted last fall we knew it would take investment in our people, our infrastructure, and our future to get where we choose to go together.
It starts now.