Mayor Coleman Delivers 2018 Budget Address
Investments focus on job growth, public safety and commitment to equity
SAINT PAUL – Mayor Chris Coleman today outlined a structurally balanced budget focused on shoring up investments in public safety, advancing City initiatives around equity, and growing the economic vitality of Saint Paul, during his 12th annual budget address, which he delivered at Saint Paul College.
“The budget presented today is values driven,” said Mayor Coleman. “We were honest about the challenges we face and fair about how we confront them, while also continuing to invest in racial equity, public safety, and economic vitality goals.”
The proposed budget of $561 million is comprised of $298 million in general fund spending. The overall budget represents a $30 million addition to general fund spending because of the elimination of the City’s Right-of-Way Maintenance Assessment (ROW). The program was restructured after a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling last summer. Under the new Street Maintenance Program, some essential services like snow plowing, tree trimming, and pothole patching, will be shifted to general fund spending.
“Remaining true to our budget principles, we have chosen to confront this challenge head on,” said Coleman. “Those services that can no longer be supported by Right of Way fees will be moved to the general fund. It is important to understand – the City is not collecting an additional cent for these services.”
To account for the $21.7 million shortfall in funding for essential services that used to be assessed through ROW, the budget includes a growth in the property tax levy of 19 percent. An additional levy increase of 4.9 percent will address the inflationary gap in the 2018 budget. Despite the proposed 23.9 percent total increase in the property tax levy, the total budget proposed by Mayor Coleman is $1.5 million less than the 2017 adopted budget.
“I am committed to structurally balanced budgets,” said Mayor Coleman. “Today’s costs will be met with today’s resources. No gimmicks. No hiding the ball. No passing the buck.”
Mayor Coleman is investing in public safety, allocating funding for six new police officers, bringing the total authorized force of the Saint Paul Police Department to 626 sworn. The Saint Paul Police had an authorized force of 576 when Coleman took office in 2006. Four of the new officers will be specially trained and join a new Mental Health Crisis Unit within the SPPD. Mayor Coleman is also funding the full implementation of the Body Worn Camera program within the department.
“I’ve repeatedly heard the need for our police officers to respond to people in crisis differently,” said Coleman. “The message is coming from residents in community meetings, business owners in discussions about downtown, and advocates who are working with people who have mental illness and chemical dependency issues. This new Mental Health Crisis Unit will help to improve outcomes for those experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Based on the findings of a TriData study of the Saint Paul Fire Department, Mayor Coleman is proposing two new super medic units, which will allow more firefighter paramedics to remain on duty and meet the growing need for medical emergency response. The TriData study concluded that the Saint Paul Fire Department is an outstanding department, but would better serve Saint Paul residents if more resources were allocated to medical emergency response. Coleman is also proposing an additional EMS coordinator to support this need, and a health and wellness program to support fire fighter health and well-being.
“The Tri-Data audit confirmed what we had hoped— fire and ambulance services are being delivered to all neighborhoods across Saint Paul in a fair and equitable manner,” said Mayor Coleman. “Response times are excellent and fire fighters, paramedics and department leaders have a lot to be proud of. But the report also told us that our staffing distribution is unbalanced with regard to the types of calls for service.”
The City of Saint Paul launched Full Stack Saint Paul earlier this summer, a bold initiative to bring 2,000 innovation and technology jobs to the City of Saint Paul by 2020, and increase innovation-related commercial space by 200,000 square feet. Mayor Coleman’s proposed budget includes $300,000 to highlight innovative companies in Saint Paul and to begin the process of marketing and recruitment. The Mayor is also proposing funding for the Department of Safety and Inspection to upgrade technology designed to make it easier for developers and builders to electronically submit construction plans to the city.
“Building on our strong culture of innovation is critical to Saint Paul’s economic future,” said Mayor Coleman. “Innovative businesses attract outside capital that will enhance our vibrant business districts and create high-paying jobs right here in Saint Paul.”
Building on the equity work of his administration, Mayor Coleman is proposing $750,000 to upgrade commercial vitality nodes and a $500,000 Job Opportunity Fund to provide capital to small business owners in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“Equity work remains a strong focus of my administration,” said Mayor Coleman. “There is no reason that we can’t support the development of real economic opportunities for every neighborhood in Saint Paul. In fact, we must.”
The Mayor’s budget includes proposals to invest $50,000 in early literacy programs at Saint Paul Public Libraries and funding for the purchase of 50 new Wi-Fi hot spots that Library users can borrow to bring internet connectivity into their homes. Mayor Coleman is also proposing increased funding for the Parks and Recreation Department to add nearly 200 free activities at rec centers in areas of need across our city, and $125,000 in ongoing funding for Right Track to support youth employment.
“The most important years for a child’s developing brain are the first three years of life,” said the Mayor. “Just 30 minutes a day of reading, talking, singing, or play interaction can make a huge difference in a developing mind.”
Also included in Mayor Coleman’s budget is $2.6 million to combat Emerald Ash Borer, which represents a $1.2 million increase over what the City of Saint Paul spent in 2017.
“EAB is not something we anticipated or something that we could have stopped if we had,” said Coleman. “It is simply a challenge that came along and had to be dealt with. And that’s nothing new.”
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.
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