The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey unified Friday around a $1.8 billion spending plan for 2024 that would dedicate funding to replenish the ranks of police officers — and also to police reform and alternative public safety strategies.
The council's Budget Committee spent two days making changes to Frey's proposed 2024 budget, which faces a public hearing and final council vote Tuesday evening before going back to the mayor for his signature. Frey, who negotiated with council members publicly and privately, said he was "optimistic" that he'll sign it.
While the council has frequently been divided over major policy issues, members worked past differences Thursday and Friday, compromising among themselves and with Frey's administration to reach overwhelming agreement on dozens of changes without acrimonious debate. The final vote was 12 to 0; Council President Andrea Jenkins was absent.
Among the nearly 50 changes council members agreed on: funding for the popular Open Streets community events; sidewalk snow removal pilot programs; and more money to pay and recruit 911 dispatchers, improve safety at intersections and assist those experiencing domestic abuse.
"Today is not about what we're most divided on," Budget Committee Chair Emily Koski said during a high-five-filled news conference after the vote. "This is where we come together." Koski emphasized that the vast majority of Frey's proposed budget was agreeable to council members, with changes affecting some $30 million of the larger $1.8 billion budget.
That relative harmony was buoyed by the fact that the city has additional money to spend, from higher post-pandemic local tax revenue and a boost in state funding for public safety initiatives.
That, and the part residents and businesses will chip in: a proposed 6.2% increase in the total amount of money raised by property taxes. The owner of a $331,000 home in Minneapolis would see an increase ranging from $150 to $160 in property taxes.
In addition to significant new spending on public safety, the budget aims to increase money to fix city streets and fill a slew of staff positions that have become vacant during a torrent of turnover seen across sectors since the pandemic.
The budget funds a police force of 731 sworn officers — the amount required by the city's charter. Officer ranks have continued to shrink, with roughly 580 on the force as of mid-November.
The plan also allots $16 million next year for dozens of hires to comply with a state-court settlement and anticipated federal consent decree to change the culture of the Police Department, including rooting out its history of racist practices.
And the budget funds a number of public safety measures that fall outside traditional policing, ranging from unarmed neighborhood "safety ambassadors" to expanding the city's behavioral crisis response teams — specialists tasked with emergency calls better suited for a mental health worker than an armed police officer.
Some other highlights of the budget proposed by Frey and amended by council members:
- Climate: A hike in electric and natural gas bills will generate an estimated $10 million annually to pay for responding to climate change, starting with weatherizing buildings.
- Public housing: The resurrection of a property tax by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority would add $4 million annually to that agency, which is grappling with a $229 million backlog of repairs.
- Witch's Hat Tower: $350,000 would be set aside to repair the water tower at Prospect Park.
- Refugees: $180,000 would be spent to hire additional workers to respond to the influx in refugees arriving and in need of assistance.
- Snow storage: $500,000 would be allocated for the city to find a secure site to store snow removed from downtown and elsewhere.