Hodges proposes Mpls. budget with 5.5 percent tax hike, 15 new cops

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Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges laid out a 2017 budget plan Wednesday, proposing a 5.5 percent property tax hike for the city.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: 5 p.m. | Posted: Noon

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is proposing a 5.5 percent property tax hike for the city in 2017, saying it will pay for more cops and better service for the city.

"I have made the case to you today for the investments I propose in this budget: in good government, in managing our success in growing Minneapolis, in equity, and in public safety," Hodges said during her budget address Wednesday. "These investments are needed, and they have a cost."

The marquee change: the addition of 15 police officers, including three dedicated to a police/mental-health unit and a dozen to bolster community policing efforts. That would boost the Minneapolis Police Department's sworn complement to 877.

Hodges said that she wanted to increase the size of the force to 901 in the next five years.

The city's population has grown 8 percent in the last five years.

"We have more people using our parks and our streets, we have more people taking advantage of all that Minneapolis has to offer and therefore managing the growth of our city requires more resources," Hodges said.

For some, it's still not enough. Minneapolis police union head Bob Kroll said 15 additional officers won't keep up with the city's growth. He's been sparring with Hodges for months.

"If you do the math, for us, that's 69 more cops to keep up with that 8 percent. If you just did the math of the population increase, what we'd like to see the department, that's more in the ballpark."

Hodges said more than 1 percent of the proposed tax increase was going to pay for the long-term parks and streets funding deal struck with the city's park board earlier this year.

Other highlights:

• Five additional traffic control agents to help handle downtown traffic

• Five additional firefighters to help control overtime spending

• An additional auditor in the City Auditor's office

• An additional $1.6 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

• Adding staff to animal control, to put an additional animal control officer on the street

Hodges said about half a percent was included to cover state aid that had been vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this year.

She repeated St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman's call on Tuesday for lawmakers to reconvene for a special session at the Capitol.

"If the Legislature passes a corrected tax bill that Gov. Dayton can sign, our levy increase for 2017 could return to the baseline 4.9 percent. Once again, if the LGA increase becomes law, I recommend we apply our share of it to reducing the levy," Hodges said.

City officials estimate a median value $190,000 home should actually see a drop in taxes by about $24 for next year's tax hike, as new construction has helped spread property taxes more broadly.

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