Mpls City Council approves budget, cuts nearly 100 jobsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minneapolis City Council approved the city's 2010 budget Monday night. Under the plan, nearly 100 Minneapolis city employees will lose their jobs next year.
Despite some creative accounting on the part of council members and other city officials, many of the lost positions will come from the police department.
Under the newly adopted budget, 25 police officers will be laid off. However, the city has applied for a federal grant that will allow the city to rehire about half of them.
If the city gets the grant, the majority of the returning employees will be existing officers. So that means most of the newest class of recruits will be out of work. One of those recruits, Heather Jorges, told city council members that she and her colleagues have worked hard to become Minneapolis police officers.
"We're former Community Service Officers for the city of Minneapolis. This isn't something where we are new hires or we came from another department. This is a dedication that we've made to the city of Minneapolis and we don't want to work anywhere else," Jorges said.
The police department will also lose 30 civilian jobs. But the number of cuts could have been higher. Last week members of the budget committee managed to save many of the 21 civilian crime-prevention jobs on the chopping block.
The police department had the largest budget gap to make up of any department. The Minneapolis Police Department is $4 million over budget this year, and has to trim more than $5 million from next year's budget.
Council member Paul Ostrow is the chair of the Ways and Means Budget Committee. This year the committee held several meetings with the police and fire chiefs to address the departments' budget problems.
The fire department will likely avoid layoffs in 2010. But Ostrow said the loss of state aid and the police department's inability to control its budget are the main reasons the MPD is losing jobs.
"It put us in a completely untenable position at the end of the year. And frankly, I think the way we were able to resolve that, and bring those departments through the budget, was somewhat remarkable. But we should not have been in that position," Ostrow said.
The police department is getting $3 million from the city's contingency fund. The fire department is getting $2 million. The money is meant to help the departments fix their budget issues.
The city council also voted down an amendment that sought to temporarily restructure the Civil Rights Department's investigative unit. The plan would have brought in a state human rights investigator into city hall to take new complaints, while city employees worked on a backlog of cases. Council members decided to wait until next year to revamp the civil rights department.
Residents will get a four percent property tax decrease. That's because the city will save nearly 10 million dollars in pension obligations. However, city officials may have to redo the budget if governor Pawlenty takes away promised state aid payments due at the end of the month.
The state is facing a projected budget deficit of $1.2 billion.
- Morning Edition, 12/08/2009, 7:20 a.m.