Minneapolis City Council members on Friday pitched their first substantial budget cuts to the Police Department following George Floyd’s death — and signaled that additional changes are in the works.
The proposals, which together total just over $600,000, are far from final. They must survive another public hearing, additional council votes and review by the mayor.
If ultimately approved, the revisions would fall far short of the $45 million that some activists have asked the city to cut from the Minneapolis Police Department’s $193 million budget. Other residents have said they want the city to maintain the department’s budget, or even increase it.
The city is trying to cut roughly $156 million from its $1.6 billion budget as it tries to compensate for the financial losses that came from the coronavirus pandemic.
Last week, Mayor Jacob Frey proposed relying on cash reserves, some furloughs, up to 40 layoffs and a series of budgetary transfers to plug the budget hole.
The city said it had already cut roughly $8.6 million from the Police Department’s budget when it implemented a citywide hiring and wage freeze. Frey suggested cutting only $50,000 more, from a timekeeping system and the system that tracks pawnshop transactions.
During a public meeting Friday, council members got their first chance to offer revisions. Members Cam Gordon and Alondra Cano both pitched cuts to the Police Department’s budget.
One measure, introduced by Cano, would move $500,000 from the Police Department to the city’s Office of Violence Prevention.
Gordon suggested cutting a combined $105,000 from the police budget to fund a Health Department program helping people with AIDS or HIV, a program designed to promote “healthy living” in low-income housing, and a youth program in Cedar-Riverside.
Some of the moves, the council members said, were designed to offset cuts or transfers that Frey initially proposed.
On almost every one of the police proposals, Council Member Linea Palmisano was the sole vote against them. Council Member Lisa Goodman also voted against the measure to transfer $500,000 out of the police budget.
Palmisano, the budget committee chairwoman, said that roughly 80% of the Police Department’s budget goes toward salaries, and she feared the proposals would likely require staff cuts. She, as well as the city’s budget office and the police chief, raised concerns about the lack of detail on where the money would come from.
“It just doesn’t sound responsible and transparent … to do these kinds of blanket cuts,” she said during the meeting.
Council Member Phillipe Cunningham pushed back on that idea, noting that department heads have discretion to shuffle money even after council approves the budget.
Another public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. Council members will be able to offer additional revisions, and the budget is tentatively set for a final vote on Friday.
Other proposals are likely to emerge. Cunningham expressed interest in a program that would seek to reduce violence with conflict mediators. Council Member Jeremiah Ellison signaled he’s keeping a close eye on the size of the force. Council Member Steve Fletcher said the Police Department “operates on an island” and doesn’t interact enough with the rest of city government.