In Final Budget, Mayor Rybak Proposes Investments in Future, Cut in Property Taxes
2014 budget invests in hiring and training diverse police, fire and City workforce to meet ‘silver tsunami’; road, transit, bikes and pedestrians; growing and greening Minneapolis
1-percent property-tax cut is 3.8 percent below growth in cost of current services
August 15, 2013 (MINNEAPOLIS) — In a speech entitled “Investing in the Future,” Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak today released his final proposed budget for the City of Minneapolis, which makes important future investments in:
- Responding to a “silver tsunami” of impending retirements by hiring and training a diverse new workforce for the City of Minneapolis, especially in the Police and Fire Departments;
- Improving the “common ground” of public infrastructure, including significant road, transit, bike and pedestrian improvements;
- Greening the city to meet the challenges of climate change; and
- Growing jobs, housing and population in Minneapolis.
Mayor Rybak’s 2014 budget delivers all these investments and more with a cut of 1 percent in the City’s property-tax levy. That 1-percent property-tax cut is 3.8 percent below the growth in the cost of maintaining current City services, before making any new investments.
“The bottom line on property taxes is: In tough times, we asked residents to invest more to keep the city strong. With times getting a little better, we will ask less,” Mayor Rybak said.
Making these investments in the future while cutting property taxes in 2014 is possible for three reasons:
- Earlier this year, Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature restored some of the decade-long cuts to local government, providing Minneapolis with $10 million more in Local Government Aid. Mayor Rybak thanked Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature for passing the “first honestly-balanced State budget in more than a decade” and “understanding how tough the last decade has been on homeowners.”
- Mayor Rybak and the City Council created a Property Tax Relief Fund with money that the City saved in 2012.
- Thanks to the stadium legislation, revenues from sales and hospitality taxes that the City now controls and may use for economic development are growing twice as fast as estimated in a recovering economy.
Mayor Rybak pointed out that these developments come on the heels of tough choices that City leaders have over the past decade to restore the City’s fiscal health:
- watching spending, with the City of Minneapolis spending 16% less in 2014 than in 2002, after adjusting for inflation;
- paying down $350 million in debt;
- reforming closed pensions that were draining taxpayers;
- restructuring City government;
- and delivering $5 million annually in Target Center property-tax relief with the 2012 stadium deal.
Had leaders not made those tough choices, property taxes would be 35 percent higher than they are.
In his budget address, Mayor Rybak laid out four broad areas in which his budget invests in the future: running the city well, making Minneapolis a safe place to call home, investing in the common ground, and growing the city.
Running the city well
Mayor Rybak pointed out that Minneapolis, like many employers, is facing a “silver tsunami:” in 10 years, more than 40% of the City’s total workforce will be eligible to retire. His budget helps fund the replacement of seasoned employees who will retire.
Mayor Rybak also called for “developing a City workforce of tomorrow that reflects the city’s population of tomorrow.” His budget proposes continued support for STEP-UP and a doubling of the Urban Scholars program.
Mayor Rybak also announced that for the first time, his budget funds Saturday hours for Minneapolis 311.
A safe place to call home
The silver tsunami affects the Police and Fire Departments as well: in the next 10 years, 42% of current police officers and 60% of current firefighters will be eligible to retire. Because “I prefer to grown our own” police and firefighters, “especially if we want our workforce to reflect our increasingly diverse city,” Mayor Rybak’s budget funds a new cadet class of 30 in the Police Department, and three new classes of 15 each in the Fire Department. It also funds 20 new Community Service Officers in the Police Department and new pipelines for hiring in both departments.
Mayor Rybak also announced funding for new police training, expanded early-warning systems and community engagement. “Every day, Minneapolis police officers take extraordinary actions to protect and serve people of every background in every part of the city. However, when one single officer makes even one offensive comment — or behaves far worse, on or off duty — it jeopardizes all that good work.” He expressed support for Chief Janeé Harteau’s efforts to set high expectations of police officers, and added, “There is no place for racism or discrimination in our Police Department.
Mayor Rybak’s budget also funds a pilot program in the Fire Department to send a fully-equipped SUV to respond to some medical-emergency calls, rather than a fire truck. It would be staffed by new EMS specialists, who will be recruited from Minneapolis Public Schools for a career in the Fire Department.
Investing in the common ground
Mayor Rybak announced a $16-million increase over five years in the City’s capital budget, in order to improve roads and basic infrastructure — the “common ground.” This new investment comes on top of five years of dramatically expanded investment in roads that has led to a rise in the City’s Pavement Condition Index for the first time in nearly two decades.
Mayor Rybak will also advance the City’s investment in modern-streetcar projects along Nicollet and Central Avenues, and along North Washington and West Broadway Avenues. “We are not going to build modern streetcars because they’re cool or retro. We want to build them because they’re necessary,” he said.
In addition, he announced investments in bike and pedestrian infrastructure, including the beginning of the conversion of the 5th Street off-ramp from I-94 into a pedestrian connection between downtown and the West Bank, and the beginning of the transformation of 29th Street, one of the most blighted streets in Minneapolis, into a grand walkway that connects Lake Calhoun to the Uptown and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods. “America’s #1 city for bikes should also be America’s #1 city for pedestrians,” Mayor Rybak said.
Finally, Mayor Rybak called for investments in the most fundamental common ground: the environment. His budget will fund a neighborhood-level air-quality study. He also called for bold action to replace the many park and boulevard trees that the City has lost and will lose in the near future, and expressed his support for a special Park Board tree levy.
Growing the city
Mayor Rybak pointed out that Minneapolis’ current brisk population growth puts it on track to meet the goal or exceed of 450,000 residents by 2025 that he set in his State of the City speech earlier this year. He also noted that for the first time since the post-9/11 recession and the Great Recession, Minneapolis is now home to more than 300,000 jobs. And Minneapolis is on pace in 2013 to beat last year’s record of $1.2 billion in the value of construction permits.
Mayor Rybak called for focusing the City’s growth efforts on creating One Minneapolis, a city without economic gaps. To that end, his budget continues the City’s investments in affordable housing, continues to support the Grow North initiative to locate companies and jobs in North Minneapolis, and directs the proceeds from the sale of downtown’s Gaviidae Common to three key neighborhood initiatives: the Great Streets Neighborhood Business District Program, the Midtown Global Market, and the City’s development account.
Mayor Rybak concluded his budget address by saying, “We stand on broad shoulders in Minneapolis. Today we join our predecessors whose investments looked down the road (and paved it, too), building a great city for generations to come.”
The text of Mayor Rybak’s 2013 budget speech, “Investing in the Future,” is here as prepared for delivery. The slides that accompanied Mayor Rybak’s speech are here.
Published Aug. 15, 2013