When Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut $13 million from the the state aid payment to Minneapolis late last year, the city had to use money from its budget reserve to fill the gap. Mayor R.T. Rybak's first budget priority was to restore the money that was taken out of the reserve.
"The next time anybody asks you whether the federal stimulus program has had any impact on Minneapolis, start by telling them there are 57 police officers on the streets because the recovery package was passed by the federal government."
Most of that will come from two sources. Rybak wants to use $4 million from enterprise funds - those come from city departments that charge for their services. The mayor also wants to use $5 million in unanticipated revenue from a city account created from the sale of the city's share of the downtown Hilton Hotel.
Rybak says that money is available because the city has paid down millions of dollars in debt over the last several years.
But Minneapolis also stands to get some help from the federal government. Rybak says the federal stimulus package was passed in the nick of time.
"So the next time anybody asks you whether the federal stimulus program has had any impact on jobs in the city of Minneapolis," Rybak said, "start by telling them there are 57 police officers working on the streets of Minneapolis because the recovery package was passed by the federal government."
Rybak says if the $13 million budget gap had been applied equally among all city departments, 57 police positions would have been cut.
But the federal stimulus money is a one-shot deal which likely won't be around to pay for public safety costs next year. And that has Rybak concerned about the future.
"I'm especially concerned about it because the cuts were already deep from the state and they're looking like they're going to be even deeper," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can, I think I've shown that we delivered the best, possible budget in these times and kept people out on the streets doing the work for the people, but this is going to be a brutal 2010 budget. And I will continue to do everything I can on that."
The governor's proposed budget would cut $17 million in aid to Minneapolis for next year. But Rybak isn't waiting until then to make more cuts.
He wants to eliminate nearly 60 positions -- many are open jobs, but 33 employees will be laid off.
The mayor also wants to eliminate the city's health lab and merge the city's Civil Rights Department's complaint investigations function with the state's.
City council member Betsy Hodges says the mayor's proposal is a responsible reaction to the current financial climate. And she echoes Rybak's criticism of the governor's proposed aid cuts.
Hodges calls the cuts, draconian and unfair to a city that has been closely watching its balance sheet.
"I take pride in having voted for strong, sound budgets that were structurally balanced for five years, every year I've been here," she said, "and it's clear that if what the governor is proposing goes through, we are going to be facing far greater cuts than we're presented today."
The cuts could turn out to be even worse when the state's new budget forecast is released in a few weeks.
The council is expected to vote on the mayor's revised budget proposal in March.
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