New money in city budget restores funding to depts

Nick Juarez wondered for more than a month whether he was going to start the new year unemployed.After three years working as a crime prevention specialist for the Minneapolis Police Department, Juarez received his 60-day layoff notice in early November. But last week, he got some good news.Thanks to $2 million in unexpected funds, his position and a handful of others had likely been saved.The City Council’s Ways and Means Budget Committee decided Dec. 7 to use the money to bolster other strained city departments like the Internal Audit Department and the Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, and allow the city to continue financial support to programs like the Domestic Abuse Project.The extra money came from retirements and cuts to overtime pay in MPD, and a larger grant from the federal government than the city had expected.After more than four months of discussion, the city’s budget will be finalized Wednesday. Several City Council members and Mayor R.T. Rybak said the changes will likely hold, but Juarez was careful about his optimism.“Things are looking good, but a lot can change between now and [Wednesday’s] meeting,” Juarez said. “Just cross your fingers, and hope for the best.”For the first time in nearly a decade, Mayor Rybak’s budget for 2012 didn’t include a property tax increase.  Instead, almost every city department’s budget was cut, resulting in the elimination of roughly 100 city positions.For many city officials the extra funds came as a pleasant surprise. Continue Reading

Men booked in Hennepin Co. likely on drugs

Nearly 70 percent of men booked into Hennepin County Jail had illegal drugs in their system, according to a new federal study from this year.The study, conducted on behalf of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, showed an increase in prescription drug abuse. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office released the results Tuesday, noting that the climbing prescription abuse fits in with a national trend.Among male inmates 21 and younger in Hennepin County custody, there has been an increase in the use of Oxycodone prior to arrest since 2010.Oxycodone is a narcotic commonly found in prescription painkillers under brand names like OxyContin and Percocet. While the study from last year showed no Oxycodone use in the 21 and under age group, the number rose to 5.6 percent of inmates.University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said the findings are “certainly not surprising.”“We have noticed … over the years that many of the people we deal with in arrest situations do have a substance abuse problem.”He noted that the arrests made throughout the county generally aren’t University students.Multiple illegal drugs were found in 18.6 percent of inmate men of all ages. Combining drugs prior to arrest doubled among the youngest inmates.“I’m concerned to see this increasing at an alarming rate among young inmates,” Sheriff Rich Stanek said in the press release.Among all male inmates, marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, at 53.1 percent. That particular problem extends into the University campus.“There’s some marijuana use among students and probably prescription drug use,” Miner said.In 2010, about 13 percent of University students said they currently used marijuana, according to a Boynton Health Service survey from that year. Continue Reading