Why doesn't the City focus on paying off the debt rather than increasing taxes and spending more?

We have prioritized completing needed infrastructure projects, which required the issuance of debt. We believe the projects were important to Hopkins. They could not have been completed if paying off debt was our focus.

In the past five years, the City has completed the following street projects: Mainstreet, Avenues West, Park Valley and Peaceful Valley, 8th Avenue Artery, Northeast Hopkins, Blake Road and Cambridge Street/Hiawatha Avenue/Lake Street. 

The projects at 8th Avenue and Blake Road will allow Hopkins to fully realize the benefits of Southwest Light Rail. The City has also completed renovations of City Hall and the Hopkins Pavilion. 

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1. COVID is forecast to continue causing unemployment, home-bound education, and health impacts. How could this impact City budgets?
2. Why can't Hopkins pick a group of peer cities with similar population numbers, demographics and tax capacity to benchmark itself against?
3. How are budgets for the largest department, the Police Department, set? Are there opportunities for citizen input?
4. Have any employees been furloughed, or have any employees been asked to furlough hours?
5. Where can the city budget be cut?
6. I would like more information on the amount of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and its duration.
7. Given the difficult times, why the large increase in equipment spending?
8. Are we ready for the light rail to come to town?
9. Have you talked with neighboring communities about additional partnerships to find efficiencies? Beyond recreation?
10. The City seems to have a binary way of looking at the budget - either increase taxes or reduce services. I ask that staff work to reduce expenses/seek new revenues so that our taxes can remain flat.
11. Why doesn't the City focus on paying off the debt rather than increasing taxes and spending more?
12. Why are you not asking departments for cut scenarios? 5%, 10%, 15%?
13. Again, given the difficult times residents are experiencing, are you planning wage/salary increases for employees? Where is that information found?
14. Have you frozen hiring for 2021?
15. You stated that approximately 70% of City employees are represented by a union, what about the other 30%?
16. Can you elaborate on the increases to Public Safety?
17. Why didn't you include alternative scenarios so residents could react if you already had it? Seems like the discussion would be more informed if they had the full details.
18. Will you be posting the comments people made with the survey?
19. Have you offered up voluntary budgetary leave to employees?
20. Will this budget allow the City to keep up with the services and maintenance that residents expect?
21. The survey was pre-pandemic, correct?
22. What street projects are coming up?
23. Are there any new positions in the budget?