A $1.9 Million Spending Increase for Brooklyn Park

December 12, 2013 at 2:07 am Leave a comment


By Andrew Richter

Will government spending ever be cut?

After some adjustments over the last few months, the Brooklyn Park City Council approved a 2014 budget that is $1.9 million higher than the 2013 budget.

With other sources of revenue, the city’s overall expenditures are increasing by $1.9 million, but the overall property tax levy is increasing $267,000 compared to last year, an amount that two city council members thought should have been cut from this year’s levy as well. The $400,000 tax levy reduction from last month’s proposed budget came largely from reallocating some of the $670,000 designated for budget reserves. Instead, $300,000 went to the Heritage Fund, a levied fund for infrastructure projects, and another $100,000 was reduced from the city’s general fund.

That’s government for you; move that money around from one account to another!

Councilmember Bob Mata asked how to further reduce the levy. “How are we going to get any more out of there?” he asked staff. “Because we have to find another $267,000 to cut out of the budget, and that’s at a minimum.” Despite individual input from council members during the Nov. 18 city council meeting, Verbrugge said there was no specific direction provided from a majority vote of the city council.

Staff presented a budget that it thought was feasible and fair, he said. If there were further reductions that the city council would like to see, then the city council could make a motion to do so, he said.

Feasible and fair to whom?

Mata repeated his consistent suggestion of cutting travel expenses for the city’s various departments, but no motion to that end was made by the city council. Councilmember John Jordan suggested cuts to specific items and positions, even though he said he would prefer across-the-board cuts to whittle the $267,000. His suggestions included reducing a community engagement initiative allocation and mentioned a top-level position. He said the assistant city manager makes $118,000 a year with salaries and benefits.

“That is a statement,” he said. “Do we look at that position?” He also suggested – and made a motion to amend the budget – curtailing benefits from two 39-hours-per-week Recreation and Parks department workers who were expected to increase to full-time status in the proposed 2014 budget. Mata seconded the motion.

Go Mata and Jordan! But then…..

“As far as the amendment goes,” Councilmember Rich Gates said, “this is my worst fear come true.” He said he did not want to see a repeat of the budget process that preceded the start of his first term, when councilmembers spent the night trying to reduce thousands of dollars from the budget proposal even though that budget had been on the table for months. “We’ve had this budget since August,” Gates said. If councilmembers have wanted to change it, they could have made motions along the way to do so, he said. “Hopefully that next time the budget cycle goes around it will go a lot smoother,” Gates said.

Oh so if they want the budget cut they should just shut up?

Councilmember Elizabeth Knight said she did not want to cut community engagement, as Jordan had suggested. Jordan said he did not want to either, but he didn’t think it was fair that 28 percent of residents would likely see a property tax increase, and he thought the November direction to staff to cut $670,000 from the budget was clear.

That’s not how Gates and Trepanier remembered it. “If you really, really wanted to cut the $670,000, then a motion should have been made that night so it could have been voted on by a majority of the council,” Gates said. And, to attempt preventing any property tax increase for all residents, Trepanier said, the city council would have to reduce the budget by millions of dollars – not merely the $267,000 increase from last year’s established city levy – to take into account every individual’s property value changes that dictate a property’s tax bill changes.

Jordan later retracted the amendment to decline benefits to the two employees after the resulting cost-savings became unclear. He initially thought it would be $50,000, but Verbrugge estimated the cost savings would be $18,000-$35,000, depending on the employees’ insurance needs.

Mayor Jeffrey Lunde repeated the goal of boosting the communications department by adding two part-time employees to aid the current one-person operation and relieve communications burdens from the police department. He initially made a motion to add two part-time communications staff members without adding to the budget, but retracted it because it did not need to be part of the budget approval.

That a boy, Mr “conservative” mayor! Keep adding to that government workforce! How about more light rail employees or another handout for Target?

The city budget and tax levy were both approved 5-2, with nay votes from Mata and Jordan.

Thank you to councilmen Bob Mata and John Jordan for voting no! a $1.9 million spending increase is absolutely ridiculous!!

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Entry filed under: Brooklyn Park, City Government, Hennepin, Mayor, Taxation.

New Hope Jacks Up Spending Community Solutions MN Radio Podcast Episode 2

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