Council scrutinizes City Coordinator’s proposed budget

Council members drilled deeper into the details of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed 2016 budget Friday, raising several questions about new one-time spending items in the City Coordinator’s budget.

The coordinator’s office proposed budget includes more than $1 million in new spending for a variety of initiatives, including $50,000 for a word gap project designed to reduce educational disparities among young children, $20,000 to raise awareness about autism in the Somali community and $20,000 for a bike awareness campaign targeting the city’s immigrant communities.

The word gap proposal is a recommendations from Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet. The proposed funding would cover the cost of program supplies, literacy kits and training, among other things, from the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, according to a presentation from Deputy City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde.

The goal is to reach about 1,500 young children in the city in 2016.

City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden (Ward 8) and other members asked who would be managing the program since it’s not the role of the mayor’s office to be running programs.

Glidden and other members also raised concerns about making an investment in a program that doesn’t have clear direction yet. 

Rivera-Vandermyde and Angela Watts, the mayor’s policy aide on education, said that it would be a collaborative project with many partners, including The Northside Achievement Zone and the University of Minnesota. The funding would be used to jumpstart the program locally. 

Glidden also asked several questions about the $20,000 for the autism awareness program.

“I am a little bit flummoxed by the autism awareness project described here. It’s not because it’s not an important issue,” she said. “I’m wondering what department is doing this work. What work can you really do for $20,000?”

Overall, the proposed budget for the coordinator’s office is about $7.7 million.

Department budget presentations will continue Nov. 3 on the mayor’s proposed $1.2 billion budget.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Dec. 9 on adopting the 2016 budget.