Minneapolis keeps levy flat, OKs new budget

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt next year's nearly $1.2 billion budget.

"We had to make some tough sacrifices, but I really applaud the great work that's been done here and unlike the governments in Washington and in St. Paul, we did it without killing each other in the process," Mayor R.T. Rybak said after the vote, alluding to U.S. and state lawmakers. "Thank you."

Rybak did speak out against an amendment that cut two positions from the city's 311 information service. There will also be about 90 fewer jobs at City Hall next year, but some popular public safety positions have been spared. That's because the police department went under budget this year. And city officials said they will roll over around a half-million dollars to next year.

The surplus will help restore five Community Crime Prevention jobs that were on the chopping block. That move was hailed by council members who say their constituents regularly talk with the civilian specialists about crime concerns in their neighborhoods. The police department will also be able to rehire the remaining nine members of a graduating class who were laid off after they finished the academy in 2009.

But the headline of the Minneapolis 2012 budget is the flat property tax levy. In past years, the public hearing preceding the budget vote has been full of people complaining about tax hikes. This year was different. Only a handful of city residents had anything to say about property taxes. One of them was David Sadler, who just came down to City Hall to express his gratitude.

"So the first thing I'd like to say is thanks very much for all your hard work. I know these choices and what you had to do, was difficult and challenging," he said. "So I'm just here to say thanks and you did a good job."

But Sadler and other taxpayers probably shouldn't get used to this. The flat property tax levy was made possible by one-time savings. Earlier this year, the city's police and fire pension funds agreed to merge with state funds. The agreement will save taxpayers $20 million in 2012.

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