Rybak: City looking for more cuts to ease property taxesby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio,
Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak on Friday said city officials are looking to make more budget cuts that could help bring down property taxes.
City property owners received property tax statements this week that included the city's 6.5 percent proposed property tax hike.
Dozens of residents attended a public hearing held by the city on Thursday complaining about the increases, and Rybak said city officials are looking for ways to ease the burden on property owners.
"We have been working almost around the clock on this budget," Rybak told MPR's All Things Considered. "It's difficult to do any cut without serious pain, but there's a lot of pain in property taxes, and we're going to stay focused on it."
Rybak called the tax increases included on the "truth in taxation" statements sent to property owners a "worst-case scenario." The city hopes to bring the rate down by at least 1 percentage point, he said.
Rybak blamed the property tax increase on the cost of closing pension funds for retired city employees. He said those pension funds have been poorly managed.
"That is an expense that state law forces the city of Minneapolis to deal with, and we're trying to change that," Rybak said, adding that the city pension funds should be merged into the state fund.
As far as city services are concerned, Rybak said Minneapolis is just trying to meet minimum expectations.
"We focus our resources on the basic services: police, fire and public works, especially plowing the streets and making sure we fill the potholes," he said.
On Thursday, outraged homeowners filled a Minneapolis City Council public hearing.
Many residents said that after the addition of county and school district taxes, their property tax bills were going up by more than 17 percent.
Minneapolis homeowner Ann Berget said she and others are looking for ways to block the city's tax increase.
"If there are no blocking actions we can take to stop you from this outrageous burden on us, then we will call you out for the financial bullies you have become," Berget said. "We are not the cash cows of this community; we have no more money to give you."
Homeowner Melissa Paulson said her property taxes are going up by nearly 18 percent.
"I'm just addressing and hoping we can maybe rethink these situations, so people like myself will not end up homeless," said Paulson, who said she'd recently been laid off from her job. "I'm just hoping you guys don't forget our faces."
Rybak said he's sympathetic to residents' concerns.
"I know a lot of people are in really, very difficult situations," he said. "They deserve for me to be working over Thanksgiving vacation, like I worked over summer, and like we work every day here, to make sure that we're looking at every possible place to cut."
Another public hearing on the proposed tax increase is set for Dec. 13.
(MPR's Tom Crann contributed to this report)
- All Things Considered, 11/19/2010, 4:54 p.m.
Elizabeth Dunbar is a general assignment reporter for MPR News.