Brooklyn Park Approves Preliminary Budget, 2.88% Property Tax Levy Increase
The Brooklyn Park City Council approved a preliminary tax levy increase of 2.88% for its 2021 budget. The vote was 5-1. About 1% of the proposed increase would pay for police reform, which could cost about $488,000 if given final approval.
It’s uncertain yet what police reform measures will get implemented. The city’s Human Rights Commission plans to present recommendations in November.
The $56.3 million preliminary budget approved on Monday, Sept. 28, sets a maximum property tax levy. The city can adjust the levy later on, but can’t increase it, only lower it. The preliminary budget would be a 2.7% increase over the 2020 adopted budget of $54.8 million.
For the median value home in Brooklyn Park of $259,500, residents would see a $102.14 monthly city tax impact, an increase of $5.28 over 2020. Keep in mind, assessed property values lag behind current market conditions. The full impact of rising home prices on property taxes is generally seen two to three years after the price changes occur.
Focus on Police Reform
The biggest expenditure in the proposed $56.3 million budget is $25.2 million for police. For perspective, the department with the second highest budgeted expenditures is operations and maintenance at $7.9 million.
The proposed 1% increase for police reform doesn’t have a specific action attached to the dollar figure yet. One possibility is embedding mental health workers with police when responding to certain 911 calls.
“We actually want to implement something, like the mental health pilot,” said Brooklyn Park City Council member Susan Pha “That’s going to cost money. That’s not free.”
A Push for a 0% Increase
Brooklyn Park City Council members say the budgeting process is not done. Some hope to get to a 0% increase, reflecting hardships and difficult decisions businesses are making in the current economic climate.
“I don’t know why we can’t sharpen our pencil. The rest of the world is,” said Brooklyn Park City Council member Mark Mata, the lone no vote against the preliminary budget proposal.
LaTonia Green, the city’s finance director, said the COVID-19 environment has created a lot of unknowns and this proposed budget gives the city more flexibility.
“If we just go to zero (percent increase), and then we have some challenges that arise, then we have to raise the property taxes even more next year,” said Green.
However, Green concurred that the city’s goal is to get to a 0% increase in the final budget.
“Our goal is to get this budget as close to zero or at zero if we can,” said Green, who added that negotiations with unions could still lower the city’s budget figure and is one reason for some built-in wiggle room. “We don’t know if that’s going to up or down.”
The city is currently recommending a $1.4 million increase in overall property taxes. Property taxes make up 81 percent of the general fund budget.
Cuts to Full-time Employees
Under Brooklyn Park’s preliminary budget, the city plans to cut nine full-time employees, which would impact three current full-time employees. Two departments taking the biggest reductions include administration ($332,000) and operations and maintenance ($67,000).
Green says a majority of council members weren’t willing to make changes to city snowplowing to further trim the budget. The council also previously expressed desire to add additional code enforcement to the budget, said Green.
Brooklyn Mayor Jeff Lunde said the city cut back on code enforcement this summer due to COVID-19. He said people noticed when services were cut.
“Everybody noticed that we cut back on code enforcement, and what’s is the thing that all of us heard loud and clear is ‘Don’t do that again,” said Lunde.
The Brooklyn Park City Council is expected to adopt a final levy and budget on Dec. 7.