Mayor Coleman Delivers 2017 Budget Address
Mayor Chris Coleman today outlined a structurally balanced budget focused on growing and strengthening the middle class through equity work during his 11th annual budget address, which he delivered at Metropolitan State University on Saint Paul’s East Side.
“This budget represents priorities based on the following principles: maintaining our long-standing commitment to good financial stewardship, strengthening our economy and growing jobs and promoting equity for all residents,” said Mayor Coleman.
The Mayor proposed a General Fund Budget of $266 million, with an overall budget of $562 million, successfully closing the $11 million budget gap while still maintaining city services. The budget also includes a modest growth in the property tax levy of four percent – which is only half of the robust 7.9 percent growth in Saint Paul’s tax base, resulting in a decreasing property tax rate for 2017.
The Mayor’s proposed budget includes a $3 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA) as part of the omnibus tax bill that passed the House and Senate earlier this year. Unfortunately, there was an error in the bill that needs to be fixed before the Governor can sign it. A special session is needed to pass the tax bill with the increased LGA.
“Like Saint Paul, cities across Minnesota need a special session to pass the tax bill,” said Mayor Coleman. “I urge state leaders to support a special session and address this critical issue now.”
The Mayor focused heavily on jobs in his 11th annual budget address, announcing that he will commit to adding 3,000 jobs in Saint Paul over the next three years. At the same time, he said that the city will be focusing on job creation specifically in areas of Saint Paul with low income residents and people of color, in an effort to close the racial unemployment gap.
“According to a Pew Research study released earlier this year, between 2000 and 2014, our middle class actually shrunk – with some in our community tumbling out of the middle class,” said Mayor Coleman. “When we layer this widening income gap over the racial disparities that plague the Twin Cities, we understand that the capital city’s response to strengthening the middle class must be to continue to put racial equity at the center of our work.”
The Mayor also announced the creation of a Job Opportunity Fund, seeded with $2 million from the sale of the Penfield, to target business investment opportunities tied to job creation. He also included another
year of funding for the city’s Commercial Vitality Zones, with $750,000 aimed at ensuring neighborhood commercial areas are effectively utilized.
The Mayor spoke to the need of attracting and retaining companies by making sure that Saint Paul can meet their needs when it comes to space and workplace environment, mentioning the development by Orton Development on Prior, just north of University, that is providing professional homes to creative entrepreneurs, tech companies and other start-ups.
“We must seize every opportunity to shape our spaces for future workforces,” said Mayor Coleman. “To that end, I will be making a special appeal to our landlords with available office space to market to the new demands of the 21st century business community.”
The Mayor spoke about his focus on jobs and equity within City Hall as well, reiterating his commitment to increase full-time employees to 23 percent people of color by the end of 2017. To do so, he announced the addition of $140,000 in funds for the city’s Human Resources department to focus on recruiting more candidates of color.
The Mayor also discussed gun violence and the current national discussion around community policing. He announced funding for three new, full-time community engagement staff members in the Saint Paul Police department to reach communities of color, as part of Police Chief Axtell’s new Community Engagement Unit. He also dedicated $150,000 in ongoing funding to ensure that the city’s Community Ambassadors continue to work on the street with officers, and he is bringing the sworn complement to an historic 620, up from the 576 officers when the Mayor took office.
“As we reflect on our community’s centuries-long obstacles to equity and to building an economy that brings more people into the middle class, let us not lose hope in the face of our ongoing struggle,” said Mayor Coleman. “Let us take heart in our ability to come together, to stay in dialogue and to push one other toward a common vision and a shared future.”
Also included in Mayor Coleman’s budget is $1.7 million to combat Emerald Ash Borer, which is predicted to infect 35,000 trees over the next 10 years in Saint Paul; $500,000 in a one-time investment to help redesign the Rondo Community Library to better serve children and teenagers; and budget to support daily staffing of 114 in the Saint Paul Fire Department.
The city’s budget documents will also be added to the new open data portal, allowing electronic detail on the Mayor’s budget. To view these documents, visit budget.stpaul.gov.