What does the Minneapolis Board of Estimate do?
- Sets the City’s maximum property tax levy.
- Sells bonds, which is how the City borrows money for things like parks, street repairs and sewers.
- Provides a forum for the City Council, Mayor and the independently-elected Park Board to address joint financial issues.
Who is on the Board of Estimate?
- The Mayor
- The Council President
- The Chair of the Minneapolis Ways and Means Committee
- A representative of the Park Board
- Two elected citizens (including me)
Why do we need the Board of Estimate?
It provides balance between the City Council and the independent Park Board. If there were no Board of Estimate, the City Council and Mayor could solely dictate the funding for the Park Board. Soon, we would not have an independent Park Board. Conversely, people love their parks but there must be constraints on funding or soon the parks budget would be out of control. The Board of Estimate ensures that both the City and the Park Board act responsibly to each other and to the Citizens of Minneapolis.
Also, the City of Minneapolis is able to do things other cities cannot because it has a Board of Estimate. Typically, the Legislature controls whether a city can borrow money. For example, the City of St Paul has to go to the Legislature for authority to borrow money. This in effect puts the Legislature in charge of what capital projects St Paul can do. Because Minneapolis has the Board of Estimate, Minneapolis decide what projects it does.
Is the "Board of Estimate" unusual?
No, there are other "Boards of Estimate" in other cities, including St. Louis, Missouri and Baltimore. New York City had one until about twenty years ago.
More broadly, this kind of structure is called a "council of governments" or "COG." COGs are created when you need to coordinate the actions of several governmental entities. COGs are usually made up of members from the various jurisdictions. Also, additional members can be added, similar to the structure of the Board of Estimate, who act as in the best interest of citizens overall instead of their own individual organization. There are hundreds of COGs in the United States.
Isn't it costly to have a Board of Estimate?
I get paid $35 per meeting, which is about $350 a year. We got our last raise in 1975. We have one staff member, who the City would need to handle its borrowing of money regardless of whether the Board existed or not. In short, we are a very good deal.
Follow this link if you would like more information about the Board of Estimate: