Mayor Rybak Delivers 2012 Budget with No Tax Increase, Major Street Improvements, Focus on Closing Racial Jobs Gap
Budget is result of Minneapolis’ 10-year record of fiscal responsibility, despite state and federal fiscal turmoil
September 12, 2011 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak today proposed a City budget for 2012 with no property-tax increase. He also proposed a major new street-improvement program, maintaining the City’s focus on public safety and reducing youth violence, and a new, consolidated effort to close the racial jobs gap in Minneapolis.
In his budget address, Mayor Rybak called Minneapolis "A City That Works," saying that Minneapolis earns the title by managing its resources well, investing in the common ground and investing in putting people to work as well as by solving problems "cooperatively and pragmatically." The title of the speech echoes one of the City of Minneapolis six overarching goals.
What people expect from city government is "pretty straightforward," said Mayor Rybak: "a safe, livable neighborhood in a vital city with good public services and affordable property taxes." Therefore, "to build a city that works, a city government needs to do two things well: control spending and taxes and make the right investments."
Fiscal responsibility. Mayor Rybak emphasized the City’s record of fiscal responsibility over the last ten years. Minneapolis budgets without relying on gimmicks or shifts, spends 8% less than 10 years ago, has 10% fewer full-time positions than 10 years ago, has paid off $183 million in debt and has restored its AAA credit rating. Few other governments can match this record of responsibility.
Mayor Rybak also announced that total spending in his proposed 2012 budget is only one percent higher than total spending in the approved 2011 budget.
Holding the line on spending allowed Mayor Rybak to propose no increase in the property-tax levy in 2012.
Mayor Rybak cautioned that holding property taxes flat comes at the cost of many difficult cuts around the City. He stated, however, that it is all the more important to make them and to pass on no property-tax increase because the State Legislature has passed a direct tax increase onto Minneapolis residents by eliminating the Market Value Homestead Credit, which Governor Dayton and Minneapolis legislators opposed.
Investing in the common ground. Mayor Rybak singled out the need to invest in Minneapolis’ streets. In order to reverse the "slow deterioration of our streets," he proposed expanding the City’s five-year capital program by 60%, or $57 million, over the one that was previously planned. Improvements will be focused on Minneapolis’ heavily-traveled arterial streets, which carry two-thirds of the city’s traffic.
These street improvements will be financed through bond sales — which, Mayor Rybak stressed, would not have been possible 10 years ago when Minneapolis was far more indebted. In fact, Mayor Rybak said, "we should think of a poorly maintained street itself as a debt that we pass on to future generations. Better streets, fewer potholes and fewer car repairs are the result of a reform-minded, fiscally-responsible city paying off its debts — in our finances and in our infrastructure."
Another part of the common ground is public safety. Mayor Rybak praised the results that have lowered violent crime in Minneapolis by 12 percent year to date, on top of bringing violent crime to a 27-year low in 2010. Mayor Rybak’s budget funds the Police Department with no layoffs in 2012 and continues to fund the Youth Violence Prevention initiative that has led to a 66-percent drop in youth suspects in violent crime since 2006.
Mayor Rybaks budget also eliminates no firefighter positions in the Fire Department next year, but the Mayor stressed that the department must control its overtime costs. The City is awaiting a comprehensive consultant report about the safest, most effective and efficient way to staff the Fire Department in the 21 st century.
Putting people to work. Mayor Rybak said, "We have shown that as a local government, we can make a positive impact on our local economy." City-led initiatives like the revitalization of the West Bank (pdf) and the STEP-UP youth-employment partnership contribute to Minneapolis’ regularly being cited as one of the cities emerging fastest from the recession.
However, he said, there is one ranking "that we should rightfully be embarrassed to lead … the fact that we have one of the largest unemployment gaps between black and white of any large city in America."
To close that gap, Mayor Rybak proposed a new "One Minneapolis" initiative, a collaboration between City departments in partnership with the private and philanthropic sectors. The initiative’s focus will be on providing hard-to-employ workers with training and placement for good jobs in the green economy. Mayor Rybak will fund the initiative — one of the only new programs he is proposing in the 2012 budget — with an investment of $300,000.
Mayor Rybak delivered his speech at CoCo Minneapolis, an incubator for entrepreneurs and independent workers in the technology, marketing and creative sectors that is located on the former trading floor of Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Mayor Rybak cited the transformation of the space that helped launch Minneapolis into the global economy more than a century ago as an example of Minneapolis’ capacity to "once again reinvent itself to meet the needs of a new world."
Published Sep. 12, 2011