Unused money from 2012 budget has Minneapolis eying zero percent tax increase

The city of Minneapolis spent $9.1 million less in 2012 than it had planned, and officials are using most of that untapped money to offset an anticipated property tax increase next year.

The city spent $377.3 million from its general fund in 2012, down from the $386.4 million the City Council budgeted for in the fall of 2011. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Carpenter said the savings come from unused contingency funds and departmental savings.

Under the direction of Mayor R.T. Rybak, Budget Committee Chair Betsy Hodges and Council President Barb Johnson, the city will roll $7 million into a property tax saving account. The City Council should vote on that proposal at its next meeting.

The $7 million would offset a projected 2.5 percent property tax increase for homeowners in 2014.

It’s still too early know if a zero percent property tax levy increase will come true. Carpenter is putting finishing touches on the city’s 2012 financial report, which will tell the Council if the city gained more revenue than it expected or not.

When asked how things were shaping up on the revenue side, Carpenter said: “Economic times are better.”

The remaining $2 million will go to a variety of uses, including $350,000 for a software upgrade, $414,000 for crime prevention specialists and $224,000 for Fire Department cadets.

Not included in the funding is an additional $386,000 requested by City Clerk Casey Carl to handle an expected high-turnout 2013 election.

City Controller Connie Griffith said the Clerk’s office will be able to tap unused department funds and request contingency funds as the election gets closer.

“We will work with them to make sure they are adequately funded,” Griffith said.