Mayor R.T. Rybak delivered the last budget address of the term, promising more cops, more debt reduction and setting minimum fire department staffing standards.
The city will add 71 officers to the force by next spring, thanks in large measure to a partial restoration of state aid cuts. Rybak announced 60 officers after the state aid deal; the budget message added 11 more officers.
City documents estimate how the proposed budget would affect various homeowners in 2006. The estimates included the property tax increase, the library referendum tax, and utility bill increases.
(See "What your city taxes could be," below.)
Rybak's budget included $72 million in debt reduction, implementation of the city's long-promised 311 information line, and 10 safety cameras for neighborhoods, similar to the Downtown Safety Zone camera, for neighborhoods that apply.
In July, the Council established a minimum Fire Department staffing level of 96 fighters under the rank of battalion chief. The budget meets that target, staving off cuts envisioned in the city's current five-year plan.
"This is the budget I have wanted to deliver for four years," he said.
The mayor gave the 45-minute budget address in City Council chambers July 28. In less than 45 minutes, Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin's mayoral campaign fired off a press release with a stinging rebuke, calling the budget "too little, too late."
In an interview, McLaughlin said the mayor could have had more police officers sooner if he would have backed a proposed police pension fix in 2004. (Rybak and the Council majority rejected the 2004 in favor of broader reforms.)
McLaughlin repeated criticism that the reorganization of the city's development arm had fallen short, and Rybak had not done enough to support the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), which funnels decreasing amounts of Downtown property taxes to neighborhoods.
Said McLaughlin, "If you want to talk about where we are getting vision, where we are getting energy, where we are getting citizen activation, it is out of NRP. He has been continuously undercutting that. He didn't change his path on that in this speech, as far as I can tell."
Green Party-endorsed candidate Farheen Hakeem was not available for comment the evening or morning after Rybak's speech.
Council committees will hold budget hearings this fall. A 2006 budget vote is tentatively set for Dec. 19.