On December 9, 2015 the City Council unanimously approved Mayor Betsy Hodges’s $1.22 billion proposed budget for 2016. Hodges’s presented her proposal on the platform of “Transforming the Basics of the Twenty-First Century City.”
In the August 12 opening address of her budget proposal Hodges’s said, “Being a 21st-Century city means we transform our work to meet the needs of the people and economy of the new century…If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we have always gotten. And what we have always gotten is no longer suitable for a competitive, successful city in the 21st Century.”
The most highly publicized element of the budget is the 3.4 percent property-tax levy increase, which is a full-percentage point lower than it would have been if not for budget cuts and right-sizing in City spending, according to the City’s press release. In addition, because of the complexity of property tax laws, more than half of Minneapolis homeowners will see a decrease in the City portion of their property taxes.
Other budgetary spending that will impact North Minneapolis residents includes a series of public-safety related expenditures that are designed to enhance accountability for police officers and other public officials. For example, $1 million will be invested in officer-worn body camera technology with the hopes of reestablishing trust between law enforcement and residents. The City is also going to triple investment in restorative justice, and add an additional $15,000 to the City Attorney’s driving offenses diversion program which will help with reinstatement of drivers’ licenses after minor offenses—an issue that disproportionately impacts communities of color.
Through her Cradle to K initiative the budget is investing significant City funds in housing programs to mitigate the negative effects homelessness has on the quality of life for young children–$13 million dollars in total. Two million dollars of which will go to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, including $1 million from the general fund. To specifically address housing needs of single mothers with young children, the 2016 budget includes $1 million that will be allocated to affordable housing options for families leaving domestic-violence shelters.
Taking a nod from President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, Hodges’s 2016 budget includes $330,000 for BUILD Leaders (Broader Urban Involvement and Leadership Development). BUILD provides boys ages 9-12 in communities of color with an older male mentor who has had personal experience with the economic and race-based realities that keep young men from living to their full potential. Hodges’s says, “BUILD Leaders is a proven strategy to take advantage of the genius in young communities of color and provide the mentorship and training that will prepare these young people to lead our future.”
Many job training and educational programs will also receive City funds this year, including school-to-career pipelines for firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). With partnership support from the Minneapolis Fire Department, Minneapolis Foundation and other local healthcare organizations, the City will pay for qualified, low-income, people of color and women between the ages of 18 and 25, to pursue their EMT certification.
An additional $350,000 will go towards 30 TechHire Initiative scholarships. In 2014 the City was chosen by President Obama to be a part of the TechHire program, which strives to train and retrain adults within underrepresented demographics for jobs in the technology sector. In her address Hodges expressed her gratitude to Obama, and hopes that the allocation of these funds will be the catalyst for the program’s success in Minneapolis.
Hodges also addressed her Minneapolis Working Families Agenda. At the pressure of local activists, Hodges agreed to her Minneapolis Working Families Agenda in 2014 to support earned sick time and fair scheduling, and address wage theft among the city’s working poor. As the program met resistance from business owners, more concessions have been made, and in her 2016 budget proposal Hodges again postponed these issues—this time until fall of 2016—at which time the Council will also revisit a regional minimum wage increase.
Other interesting elements of the budget include a focus on job creation for the creative sector, including a $580,000 investment in public art and additional funding for the City’s 10-year arts plan, which focuses on grassroots artists and artistic needs within neighborhoods and communities of color. Counteractive global warming measures will also be funded by the City this year through the installation of LED technology in City-owned streetlights—a $400,000 investment which will save $113,000 a year on average after implementation.
The dynamic scope of the City’s 2016 spending addresses many 21st Century concerns. As Hodges said at the end of her public address, “We are in a process of transformation. It will be uncomfortable. It already is. That discomfort is the natural sign of a city in the process of adaptation to new realities and transformation into something bigger and better.”