Mayor unveils city budget plan Aug. 12

Mayor R.T. Rybak will deliver his 2005 budget proposal Thursday, Aug. 12, 4 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

The Council will hold budget hearings in the coming months and approve the final budget in December.

The mayor has not released budget details; it is still a work in progress, an aide said. One thing is clear: There will be little to no money for new initiatives.

Departments will have more money in 2005 than they did in 2004, but not enough to keep up with cost increases, city finance estimates say. Under the city's

five-year financial plan, departments would get a $14 million increase, or 5 percent more than last year, but

$6.3 million less than what they need to maintain current service levels.

City policy caps property tax hikes at 8 percent overall. State changes have increased homeowners' shares.

Rybak said he asked staff to run a 0 percent and 4 percent scenario. "It became clear that coming in under [8 percent] would be very difficult," he said.

Hennepin County and the public schools also contribute to the property tax bill.

During his spring State of the City speech, Rybak hinted at a few initiatives.

The mayor said the city needed more money in basic infrastructure. "I believe we've sacrificed Public Works and Transportation more than anything," Rybak said April 27. "So look for us to continue to look that challenge in the eye as we move forward on the budget."

City budget pressures include declining state aid. In 2004, the city had to absorb a $35 million state aid cut. The 2005 cut is estimated at $2.6 million.

Rybak also made graffiti cleanup a priority.

"As you look at the budget process this year, know that my eyes are very much focused on the fact that there is far too much graffiti in this city," he said.