City budget approved with little controversy

Something was missing from the 2013 city of Minneapolis budget: Turmoil.

Compared to recent years, the City Council dealt with taxpayer backlash and vocal protests over funding cuts.

This time around, the City Council was able to quickly and unanimously pass through a 1.7 percent tax levy increase on Dec. 12. Council members offered relatively few amendments to Mayor R.T. Rybak’s recommended budget, which he offered in September.

The most notable budget tweaks came in the Ways and Means/Budget Committee in early December. The chair of that committee, City Council Member Betsy Hodges (Ward 13) added two 911 operators and saved funding for the city’s crime prevention specialists, although the city still has no long-term funding in place for the specialists.

“Council Member Hodges led a very smart move in Ways and Means that added more preventive work in public safety that was a combination of smart budget work, and I think Council Member Hodges’ really wise way of looking at the upstream way to make the city safer,” Rybak said.

The budget increases funding to the Police Department by $2.5 million and to the Fire Department by $1.1 million. That will allow for 10 more police offers on the force, plus allow the Fire Department to fill positions vacated by retirements.

The city saved $300,000 to $400,000 by reorganizing its Regulatory Services Department, cutting several administrative positions.

According to the city, about 70 percent of homeowners will see no tax increase or will see a tax decrease. That’s largely because home values decreased more in 2012 than did commercial values.

New police chief shuffles leadership

Downtown and Northeast will get new police inspectors, as freshly appointed Police Chief Janeé Harteau is shuffling her leadership team.

Harteau tapped 1st Precinct Insp. Eddie Frizell as deputy chief of the patrol bureau, a position in Harteau’s executive management team. Bryan Schafer will take over for Frizell as inspector of the Downtown precinct.

Schafer is a 21-year city cop who has specialized in juvenile crime. He most recently served as commander in the 2nd precinct.

In Northeast, the 2nd Precinct will get a new inspector in Bruce Jensen. Jensen, a 19-year veteran of the MPD, has a background in the traffic unit and in financial crimes. He’s been working as a lieutenant in the 2nd precinct for two years.

Most notable of Harteau’s changes is her appointment of Matt Clark to be her assistant chief. Clark comes from the 5th Precinct in Southwest and has been with MPD for 19 years. He was recently named in a lawsuit against the city by Champions Sports Bar and Grill.

Kristine Arneson, another former 5th Precinct inspector, will serve as Harteau’s deputy chief of investigations.

Rounding out the precinct inspector lineup are Michael Sullivan in the 3rd Precinct of South Minneapolis, Michael Kjos in 4th Precinct of North Minneapolis and Anthony Diaz in the 5th Precinct of Southwest Minneapolis.

Report shows healthy city sales tax for Vikings stadium

In early December, the state of Minnesota released numbers showing that the state’s funding source for a new Vikings stadium — electronic pulltabs — weren’t meeting projections.

The city of Minneapolis released its third quarter financial report this week showing that the city’s funding sources — sales, lodging, food and liquor taxes — are performing quite nicely.

Through September, sales tax revenue was up 4.5 percent over the same period in 2011. The number crunchers who drafted the Vikings stadium bill had estimated for annual growth of 2 percent.

Those tax revenues — a citywide half-cent sales tax, a 3 percent downtown food and liquor tax and a 2.6 percent lodging tax — generated $40.62 million through September, up $1.75 million from last year.

“All the local tax categories are ahead of 2011, as people increase spending and take advantage of downtown lodging, dining, and drinking opportunities,” the report says.

Mayor R.T. Rybak, during the stadium debate, had said that the 2 percent increase estimates were conservative.

Over the past 10 years, the four taxes grew by an average of 2.6 percent. So it appears the city is on track this year to out-pace both its projections and its historic trends.

Reach Nick Halter at [email protected]