MINNEAPOLIS- Betsy Hodges has been ordered by Judge Mary Vasaly to produce a budget by Friday or show why she needs more time.
The court order stems from a lawsuit against the mayor by a member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, Carol Becker. The city charter (pursuant to Article IX under the budget section) requires the mayor to have submitted the budget by August 15. Becker filed the lawsuit on August 18.
Becker made a lengthy social media posting on the lawsuit stating, “the Mayor did not produce a budget by August 15th as stipulated by the City Charter. She instead said she would produce a full budget by September 12th, the day before the public hearing on the property tax levy. Without a budget, folks don’t have the ability to know what their taxes will pay for. They don’t know if they should organize, protest, support, advocate, or oppose because they simply don’t have the information available to them. This is not OK.”
Hodges has made multiple claims as to why the budget has been late, including the shooting of Justine Damond and the explosion at Minnehaha academy. Both of these reasons don’t stand up according to Becker.
“Producing a budget is a process that starts right after the books close in March and goes through the Mayor’s speech which occurs about August 15th,” Becker told Alpha News.
The truth of the matter it that Hodges would have had more than enough time prior to these two incidents to have worked on the budget.
Another reason cited by Hodges for the delay, was she wanted to allow the new Police Chief, Medaria Arradondo, greater input in the city budget when it came to the Minneapolis Police Department. However, Becker stated that this argument does not stand up as “he was not appointed chief until after the budget was due.”
While Hodges office has released a preliminary budget, Becker claims that this is insufficient, and does not give the amount of information necessary for citizens to respond. In terms of property tax, the preliminary budget does make clear that there will be a 5.6 percent increase. Becker says more information on the budget in relation to the property tax is crucial.
“The property tax is by far the biggest source of revenue for the City, raising about $325M of the about $1.4B City budget,” Becker said. “The property tax is used to pay for some of the most basic things the City does, like police, fire, parks, streets. It is also used to pay for things like affordable housing, security in public housing, bike lanes, etc.”
This has become a recurring issue for Minneapolis in recent years.
“I have had this fight with the Mayor (and previous mayor) before,” Becker said “I could yell about it again, hoping that she will do the right thing. Or we could settle this once and for all.”
On the necessity of pursuing the lawsuit, Becker had the following to say:
“After going through this four times in the last ten years, I was out of options. Cajoling wasn’t enough to protect the public interest. This was the only alternative – to set precedent so we don’t have to keep fighting this year after year.”