a view of xxxx from the air on Thursday, May 5, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

St. Paul is poised to fund a study for the proposed Rondo Land Bridge, a highway cover to allow new real estate development and pedestrian access over Interstate 94 in the Summit-University area.

The city also will put $280,000 next year toward the police department’s aging vehicle fleet, $100,000 toward a bicycle and pedestrian safety program and $22,000 to complete funding for a grant-supported social worker in the public library system. An additional $50,000 will fund a “street team” of downtown greeters.

Mayor Chris Coleman’s 2018 budget has undergone $1.5 million in changes since it was unveiled in August, mostly to accommodate project requests from the city council.

The council approved the city budget and property tax levy Wednesday.

The $1.5 million in new spending will largely come from the city’s parking meter revenue and the city’s half-cent sales tax. The tax is now projected to generate $700,000 more than previously anticipated.

As a result of the $1.5 million in city council priorities, the 2018 city budget will total $563 million, roughly on par with that of the current year.

Coleman, who is running for governor in 2018, unveiled his 12th and final city budget proposal this summer. It does not include any layoffs or substantial new hiring, with the exception of six new police officers.

“The final budget of the Coleman administration is structurally balanced,” said City Finance Director Todd Hurley. “Ongoing revenues fund ongoing expenses. We’re not using one-time dollars for ongoing programs or projects. We’re not putting any spending on a credit card.”

The city’s property tax levy — the total of all property taxes collected — will grow 24 percent in 2018, of which 19 percent is attributable to partially shifting street-maintenance costs from fees to property taxes.

Facing legal pressure from downtown churches and other plaintiffs, the city council once considered moving the entire “right-of-way” street-maintenance program onto the tax levy, which would have resulted in an almost 34 percent increase.

The impact on individual homeowner and commercial property taxes will vary. Across St. Paul, home values are climbing an average 7.2 percent, with huge variation from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“The increase in taxes are particularly felt in corners of the city that are lower-income areas,” said council member Jane Prince, who said the city had been responsible in budgeting.

A typical St. Paul home valued at $161,400 in 2017 and an estimated $173,900 in 2018 will see the city portion of property taxes climb more than 27 percent, from $591 to $755, for a difference of $164. The increase will be largely offset by changes to the city’s street-maintenance program, which will decrease by an estimated $130.

After increases to sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water rates, that homeowner would pay $66 more for all city services in 2018 than in 2017.


Council President Russ Stark on Wednesday said “the levy increase this year is significant, in large part because of the shift in the right-of-way program,” but the budget otherwise includes “modest” increases and changes.

The city will upgrade its parking meter software, continue to replace coin-operated meters with automated ones near the Capitol, and expand its Cultural and Neighborhood STAR program, he said.

Council member Rebecca Noecker said she was excited by the prospect of the Department of Safety and Inspections going through an electronic plan review process intended to streamline how construction projects are submitted to the city, filed and evaluated. “I do think the budget shows great restraint,” she said.

Under the 2018 budget, the police department will receive $750,000 to fund police body cameras, and it will establish a five-officer mental health crisis team.

The Department of Planning and Economic Development will receive $300,000 toward the “Full Stack St. Paul” initiative, which is aimed at drawing technology and innovation jobs to the city.

Parks and Recreation will expand free offerings in the parks and rec centers by 187 programs. The city’s emerald ash borer program will grow by $1.2 million, mostly to remove trees and grind stumps, for a total EAB budget of $2.6 million.

The St. Paul Public Library, which has 130 Wi-Fi hot spots that can be checked out for home Internet access, will add 50 hot spots. The city will fund intersection improvements in the Snelling-University area as part of its “commercial vitality node” program, and a new $500,000 job opportunity fund will help small businesses get off the ground.

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