Amendment would put city budget on a new schedule

Budgeting is an annual process in Minneapolis, but a proposed charter amendment would shift the city to an every-other-year schedule.

Introduced by Ward 13 City Council Member Linea Palmisano, the biennial budgeting charter amendment has the support of Mayor Jacob Frey, who called it “good governance and common sense.” One of the mayor’s primary responsibilities is drafting an annual city budget proposal, and Frey said a biennial schedule would give city departments more time to incorporate long-term planning into their budget proposals.

“If you look back, annual budgeting started when the city was a lot less complex and quite a bit smaller than it is now, and effective governance requires adapting to that change and moving with the time,” he said.

Frey said it’s only a matter of weeks after one budget is adopted in December that city departments start working on the next year’s budget. In his Jan. 16 presentation to the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee, Minneapolis Budget Director Micah Intermill said budget deadlines tend to drive the budgeting process, when it really should be the other way around.

Intermill said a two-year cycle would create time for departments to evaluate their spending in off years and ensure resources are being effectively targeted. And it leaves open the possibility that a mayor could introduce a supplemental budget in those off years to deal with unexpected needs.

“We live in a world that’s always changing, and so in that supplemental year I anticipate it would not be uncommon that a mayor would need to make a recommendation for an item that just wasn’t on the radar perhaps just 12 months prior,” he said.

There are two possible paths to amending the city charter, by ballot or by ordinance. The biennial budgeting amendment is likely to follow the latter route, which requires a 13–0 vote by the City Council and the signature of the mayor, Charter Commission Chair Barry Clegg said.

“Budgeting matters tend to be sort of arcane,” Clegg said. “It’s not like asking should liquor stores be open on Sunday, on which everybody has an opinion.”

The amendment will be scheduled for a public hearing in the Intergovernmental Relations Committee after it goes before the commission, which was scheduled to happen in either February or March. Clegg said the timing depending on hammering out a few “minor technical details” raised by the amendment, including whether the city should adjust the schedule for capital improvement planning to some multiple of two; the plan currently looks out five years.