Mayor Hodges proposes Minneapolis’ 2015 budget

In her first budget address as Minneapolis mayor on Thursday, Betsy Hodges proposed several initiatives aimed at combating racial disparities and bolstering public safety citywide.

With more than $2.1 million in spending for extra 911 operators, police and firefighters, Hodges’ 2015 budget focuses on growing the city while upholding her main campaign platforms. The full City Council will vote on the proposal in the coming weeks.

“Well, Minneapolis, now we get to put our money where our votes were,” she said to about 100 elected officials, city staff members and journalists.

Hodges proposed a 2.4 percent increase in the city’s property tax levy, largely to deal with inflation after years of cuts to city services.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman also proposed a 2.4 percent increase in his city’s property tax levy on Wednesday.

Half of Minneapolis residents wouldn’t see their property taxes increase under the new levy next year, Hodges said.

Hodges, a former City Councilwoman, chaired the city’s Ways and Means Committee before becoming mayor. That committee, which meets on Aug. 25, will discuss her proposed budget.

Last year, Hodges campaigned on eliminating the income and achievement gaps between white city residents and people of color.

To make good on that goal, her budget proposal includes funding for new employees in the city coordinator’s office, the office of Elections and Voter Services and the Department of Civil Rights.

Those employees would reach out to underserved populations and make sure the city’s services are distributed equally, Hodges said.

“We must do our best to reach all Minneapolis,” she said.

The 2015 budget proposal also includes an extra $1 million to support affordable housing across Minneapolis — an item that drew applause from spectators.

A push for safety

Hodges said the city’s 911 operators typically answer calls within six to seven seconds, which is in line with national standards.

But in order to improve the process, she proposed $346,000 to hire four more operators next year.

Hodges also said she wants to hire 10 more police officers, bringing the department’s roster to 860. She proposed $960,000 in spending for an 18-cadet class next year.

In an effort to boost the department’s diversity, Hodges wants to spend $1 million to hire 20 new community service officers, who she said often become police officers.

Some Minneapolis police officers will start sporting body cameras this fall, she said, as the city’s pilot program for the technology begins.

Hodges also proposed $800,000 to bolster the Fire Department’s ranks with two classes of recruits next year.

Her budget includes $750,000 to increase the number of protected bike lanes across Minneapolis.

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