I want to thank everyone who came out for my fifth annual budget address Wednesday. After four years of working smarter to provide better service at a better price, my proposal for the 2011 budget keeps property taxes flat for the coming year.
These past four years, we have made tough choices and sacrifices in the face of an economic recession and cuts to LGA. This year the state kept it’s commitment to provide Minnesota cities with stable funding, and in turn we are able to provide the same services, with some exciting new ones, to residents for the same price as in 2010.
Some of the great new initiatives in 2011 include:
The City will invest $140,000 in the Parks and Recreation department, allowing them to increase staff and expand hours in Community Centers, while increasing outreach for our North End Teen Center, No School Days and Summer Blast programs.
Parks and Recreations will also receive $160,000 to provide a career skills component to their Youth Jobs Corps initiative. Jobs Corps employees will now receive training in computer skills; resume writing, interview preparation, developing a career path and college access information. The department will also expand the Job Corps program, reaching out to older youth and young adults who don't meet current age requirements.
In addition to construction of the Central Corridor beginning on University in 2011, we will begin work on replacing the Lafayette and Cayuga bridges. The Lafayette Bridge replacement is a $200 million project using state and federal funds. When completed, the bridge will be a “complete streets” bridge, providing bicycle and pedestrian connections from downtown and the East Side to the West Side, Dakota County and beyond.
The Cayuga Bridge project will create a full access interchange between Phalen Boulevard and I-35E. The new bridge will fulfill the Phalen Boulevard promise of providing new employers with a direct connection to I-35E and the regional transportation network.
The budget invests $500,000 in Saint Paul Police and Fire Departments, providing for better equipment, increased training and faster response times. The Police Department will utilize their $200,000 to add six additional Sergeants and a Commander who will be assigned to the newly formed FBI Safe Streets initiative. Police will also replace 610 guns and offer three additional training opportunities throughout the year. For the Fire Department, $300,000 will maintain staffing and allow for two additional Supermedic Teams, shortening fire and EMS response times.
As Saint Paul leads the way out of the recession, we must focus on rebuilding our great City while laying the foundation for economic growth.