Hodges proposes 5.5 percent levy increase for 2017

Mayor Betsy Hodges proposed a 5.5 percent levy increase for 2017 to allow for new investments to improve public safety and address the city’s growth during her budget address Wednesday at City Hall.

The increase in the 2016 property tax levy was 3.4 percent.

Hodges said an error in the state’s tax bill means the city has to craft a 2017 budget without an expected $1.7 million increase in Local Government Aid.

“If the Legislature passes a corrected tax bill that Governor Mark Dayton can sign to restore next year’s planned $1.7 million increase, I will recommend that we apply it to reducing our property-tax levy,” she said.

The recent $800 million funding agreement for the city’s parks and streets also increased the baseline levy increase for 2017 from 3.75 percent to 4.9 percent.

The city’s budget is roughly $1.2 billion. Hodges said her budget also includes $2.7 million in spending cuts.

Despite the proposed levy increase, a single-family home valued at $190,500 would see their tax bill drop slightly — from $1,108 to $1,084, said David Prestwood, the mayor’s communications director. The city’s tax base has expanded as result of new construction and inflation, he said.

Hodges noted the city’s population grew 8 percent in five years to 412,571 residents.

“We are on pace for our fifth consecutive year of exceeding $1 billion in construction permits. We have more people using our parks and our streets. We have more people taking advantage of all Minneapolis to offer,” she said. “Therefore, managing the growth of our city requires more resources.”

The mayor’s proposed 2017 budget includes funding to hire an additional five full-time firefighters, bringing the department’s authorized strength to 411. It also includes money for 15 new police officers — allowing the MPD to have up to 877 officers. Twelve officers would focus on community policing and three would be designated for a mental health co-responder pilot project.

Hodges has also set a goal of having 901 police officers by 2021.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said she’s encouraged to see funding for additional officers.

“Anytime we can increase the size of our Department, it’s a good thing, especially as the population of Minneapolis increases,” she said. “Effective public safety today requires our officers to spend significant time patrolling violent crime hotspots, more time on individual 9-1-1 calls, and more time on community engagement and training. I’ve been vocal about the need for more officers and I appreciate the chance to grow our staff and better serve the residents of the City of Minneapolis.”

The budget also includes funding for several community-based crime prevention strategies, including resources for neighborhoods to tackle violent crime on West Broadway and in Little Earth.

All told, 70 percent of new spending proposed in the 2017 budget is directed toward public safety, Hodges said.

She also encouraged people to become police officers and expressed gratitude for the current members of the force.

“And so I say to our residents of all neighborhoods, races, religions, backgrounds, and genders: join us. Become a Minneapolis police officer,” she said. “At this dynamic moment of change and transformation, now more than ever, we encourage people who are from and dedicated to the communities we serve to step up and join us in serving, to be part of this transformation in partnership with community on the ground every day.”

City Council President Barb Johnson ( Ward 4) said she’s pleased with the mayor’s budget and said Hodges is “putting money in the right places.”

“I liked the investment in public safety. Coming from the North Side, that’s extremely important, but we’re having upticks all across the city,” she said.

The City Council will hold budget hearings this fall to consider the mayor’s proposed budget and will vote on the spending plan in December.