City Council Actions // After some tweaking, 2012 budget approved

City Council members saved the jobs of four crime prevention specialists and restored $150,000 in funding for community TV before approving a 2012 budget that does not raise the property tax levy.

The city’s money committee spent two days in early December combing through Mayor R.T. Rybak’s 2012 budget, shifting around small pots of money.

The City Council unanimously approved the amended budget on Dec. 14.  

Among the notable changes that were adopted:

• Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) proposed two amendments that will save $150,000 in funding for the Minneapolis Telecommunications Network. MTN originally faced a $250,000 cut, or 31 percent of its budget. The $150,000 is a one-time funding source that comes from a program to make City Hall wireless.

• The council, on a proposal from Betsy Hodges (Ward 13), dipped into Minneapolis Police Department savings to preserve four crime prevention specialists, which are civilian workers tasked with recruiting and training block clubs, compiling crime data for the community, sending out crime alerts and responding to problematic properties.

• Council President Barb Johnson and Diane Hofstede (Ward 3) proposed using $81,000 in Police Department savings to make contributions of $31,000 to the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board and $50,000 to the Mississippi Riverfront Partnership. Rybak railed against the move, saying the council shouldn’t be taking funds from the Police Department while it tried to keep sworn officers on the streets.

Re-opening Nicollet Avenue?

Rybak calls it one of the worst planning decisions in the history of the city. In the 1970s, Nicollet Avenue was closed off at Lake Street in order to build a Kmart.

Reopening Nicollet Avenue has been a hope of city officials for some time. Even though it’s not necessarily a budget decision, Council Member Robert Lilligren (Ward 6) made a motion at the Dec. 14 budget adoption to create a project team tasked with reopening the street.  

The project team will consist of staff from Community Planning and Economic Development, Public Works and Finance. They’ll be tasked with creating a project area, establishing a timeline and gather and implement community and stakeholder engagement.

Lilligren’s motion asked for a staff update to the city’s transportation and community development committees before April.

City decreases pet license fees

There may be more than 120,000 dogs and cats living in Minneapolis, but only about 14,500 of them are licensed, according to city estimates.

In an effort to boost the licensure rate and increase revenue, the City Council has lowered the license fee from $30 to $25 and added a $15 discount for limited income households and those on public assistance.

Pet license revenue goes toward a number of things. It pays to shelter stray animals and find them new homes. It covers investigations into animal abuse. It pays for response and enforcement to dangerous animals and dog bites.

Only 12 percent of city dogs and 1 percent of city cats are licensed, according to the city. Those licenses generated about $425,000 for the city in 2011. The city hopes to boost revenue to $2 million.

Since the city lowered pet license fees for seniors and increased pubic outreach beginning in 2007, licensed pets went from 8,700 to 14,500,

Licensed pets, if they go missing, have a 1 percent chance of being put down. Unlicensed pets have a 52 percent chance of being put down.

According to the city, Minneapolis lags behind the nation when it comes to pet licensures. The U.S. average for let licensure is 20 to 30 percent, compared to 12 percent in Minneapolis.   

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.