Minneapolis budget cut opponents decry ‘latte levy’

The average Minneapolis homeowner will save about $3 on next year's property tax bill, thanks to some modest budget cuts approved Monday by the Minneapolis City Council.

The losing side in the contentious 7-6 vote is mockingly calling it the "latte levy,"or #lattelevy in Twitter-speak.

They're using social media to turn up the political heat on the council members who supported the cuts.

"[T]his vote derails the work of 5 different departments focused on really important stuff like protecting the planet, closing the racial disparities in our city and supporting homeownership efforts so that some folks can afford to have one more latte a year," Council Member Alondra Cano wrote on Facebook following the Budget Committee meeting.

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The cuts include $150,000 for a study on racial disparities, $75,000 for a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and $125,000 for homeownership outreach. In total, the budget panel trimmed $620,000 in spending, thanks in part to lower-than-expected health insurance costs for city employees.

As a result, the city's tax levy will increase by 2.2 percent, instead of the 2.4 percent proposed by Mayor Betsy Hodges.

"To me, this is about excellent financial stewardship," said Council Member Linea Palmisano, who championed the smaller tax increase.

Palmisano represents the affluent neighborhoods of southwest Minneapolis, which pay a disproportionate share of the city's property taxes due to their surging real estate values. But this wasn't about the haves versus the have-nots. Palmisano built a coalition that included council members Blong Yang and Abdi Warsame, who represent much lower-income parts of the city.

"I don't think the sky is falling with any of these cuts," Yang said before casting his yes vote.

The heated debate highlighted divisions between city leaders that first emerged during Elizabeth Glidden's failed bid for council president earlier this year. Glidden voted no along with the three council members who publicly supported her -- Cano, Andrew Johnson and Lisa Bender.

Council President Barbara Johnson was on the winning side of this battle, too.