The St. Paul City Council approved Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2019 budget this week, which includes a 10.5 percent property tax increase and $500,000 towards additional bike lanes throughout the city.
The council unanimously approved the budget on Wednesday. Carter called the budget a “different take on what the city government is,” saying he drafted the budget as a “direct result of what the challenges are for St. Paul residents.”
According to The Pioneer Press, 2019’s tax levy of $156 million will be $14.7 million higher than it was in 2018, though Carter did agree to reduce the property tax increase by one percentage point before it was approved.
“We’re really investing in St. Paul here. We did hear that 11.5 percent was tough for folks, and did our best to whittle it down,” City Council President Amy Brendmoen claimed.
KSTP notes that this is the third straight year of property tax increases in St. Paul, which saw a 24.2 percent increase in 2018 and an 8.1 percent increase in 2017.
The budget also addresses affordable housing in the city, a central issue of Carter’s tenure, and plans to invest $71 million on affordable housing initiatives over the next three years and set aside $10 million for an affordable housing fund, a press release from Brendmoen states.
Additionally, the budget will forgive $2.5 million in late fees owed to the city’s libraries by 51,000 library card-holders who have had their privileges revoked due to overdue books.
One of the most talked about aspects of the budget is its establishment of a new Office of Financial Empowerment, which will receive $358,365 in initial funding. The new office will “provide financial navigation tools to St. Paul residents,” mainly through helping younger residents establish college savings accounts.
An in-depth report from The Pioneer Press explains that the office is part of Carter’s larger initiative to combat poverty in the city and will provide financial counseling to lower-income students. To start, the office will be staffed by a director of financial empowerment, a college savings accounts coordinator, and a fair housing coordinator.
The 2019 budget also includes $500,000 for constructing additional bike lanes, a tripling in investments for school recreation programming, another $500,000 for a “recreation campus” on Rice Street, and a full-time attorney in the City Attorney’s Office to provide “support for immigrant and refugee communities.”
“This week the City Council adopted the final 2019 budget after months of meetings, hearings, and negotiations,” Brendmoen said in a Friday press release. “I am proud of the investments we are making in our city today to pave the way for a brighter future that benefits all.”
– – –
Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Melvin Carter” by Melvin Carter. Background Photo “Statue in St.Paul City Hall” by Runner1928. CC BY-SA 4.0.