Local Government Aid approved earlier this year by the state legislature, Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed a one percent cut to city property tax rates for 2014 in a speech Thursday.Taking advantage of a boost in
“The bottom line on property taxes is: In tough times, we asked residents to invest more to keep the city strong. With times getting a little better, we will ask less,” Mayor Rybak said in a statement emailed to reporters following his speech.
The mayor praised the city's lobbyists and City Council members Betsy Hodges, Elizabeth Glidden, and Barb Johnson for helping pass the LGA increases and for helping right the city's financial ship in years past. Minneapolis is receiving a $11.9 million boost, or around $31 per resident.
Money saved from the city's 2012 budget is also being used in next year's budget to keep costs down. Hospitality taxes diverted to city coffers as part of the Vikings stadium deal are also buoying the municipal budget.
Rybak used his speech to unveil or promote a slate of initiatives to improve Minneapolis' transportation infrastructure, civic workforce, and neighborhood projects. Among those, the mayor promised $16 million would be set aside to spend on road repair over the next five years and touted his administration's decision to hire or send through professional academies dozens of new firefighters and police officers to replace older first responders expected to retire in the coming years.
"Until very recently, impending retirements weren’t a serious concern for us: the lagging economy and lagging retirement accounts meant that in the past few years, few people were leaving," the text of Rybak's prepared remarks read. "The pace of retirements in public safety means we have to act now to open the pipeline to hire new police and firefighters."
The mayor also took time to defend the city's investments in planning a new streetcar system—an idea that has drawn fire from some corners as a waste of money.
"We are not going to build modern streetcars in Minneapolis because they’re cool or retro: we want to build them because they’re necessary. When the Hiawatha, Central, Southwest and Bottineau lines come into Minneapolis, we will not be able to fit another LRT line without a massive public works project that may not even be possible," Rybak's prepared remarks said. "We need shorter, more flexible streetcars because without them, this growing city will be gridlocked with cars."
The full text of the mayor's speech and the accompanying slides are available on the city website.
With much of the mayor's speech highlighting his administration's accomplishments since taking office, it was only natural that candidates for mayor jumped in with their take to praise the mayor, criticize him, or try to grab onto his coattails.
"It has been a privilege to work with Mayor Rybak to pay off a mountain of inherited debt, fight for pension reform, and keep residents’ taxes down," said Ward 13 City Council member and mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges. "I don’t walk away from tough fights and I’m grateful to have worked alongside a mayor who doesn’t, either."
"Mayor Rybak’s final budget reflects many of my priorities and our shared vision for substantial advancements in transit and sustainability while making improvements to control property taxes," mayoral candidate Mark Andrew said.
"I was glad to see the mayor's proposed budget include funding for the priorities I've been describing on the campaign trail," said mayoral candidate Cam Winton. "[The property tax cut] of course sounds great and as a homeowner I certainly hope it's possible. I look forward to digging into the details, though, to understand how the City intends to make the math work."