What does the 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.

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.  The City Council can’t de-fund parks nor can the Park Board decide to double its property taxes because of the Board of Estimate structure forces them to work together. 

We also function as a check and balance on the City Council and Mayor.  The Board can block actions by the City if it so chooses. 

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.  New York City had one until about twenty years ago, when it was decided that having each borough having one vote was not a fair voting system. 

More broadly, this kind of structure is called a "council of governments."  These "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. There are hundreds of COGs around 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.  

Follow this link if you would like more information about the Board of Estimate:

http://www.minneapolismn.gov/bet/index.htm