Mayor Coleman praises City Council passage of 2017 budget

Mayor says budget is fiscally responsible, fills LGA funding gap and prioritizes equity and public safety

Mayor Chris Coleman today (December 14, 2016) praised City Council for passing a 2017 budget for the city that prioritizes equity and public safety and fills a local government aid funding gap. He also praised City Council for advancing his investment priorities, even as they moved into contingency until March some of the initiatives while city staff work to address potential changes to the Right of Way program.

“This budget maintains our long-standing commitment to good financial stewardship, which has earned the capital city our AAA bond rating,” said Mayor Coleman. “The budget prioritizes investments in our work around equity and preserving our strong commitment to public safety.”

The Council passed a General Fund Budget of approximately $267 million, with an overall budget of $561 million – successfully closing a funding gap caused, in part, by continued defunding of local government aid. The budget assumes a growth rate in the property tax levy that mirrors the 7.9 percent growth in the city’s tax base.

The budget passed by Council preserves 2016 funding levels, while bolstering strategic new investments in equity and public safety. While many of the new investments originally advanced by the Mayor will be considered in March as part of the ROW program evaluation, key items will immediately move forward:

  • Increased funding for Right Track, Saint Paul’s highly successful workplace readiness initiative that connects more than 600 Saint Paul youth with summer jobs and internships.
  • Citywide investments in out-of-school time learning through culturally relevant and educationally rich programming in our Parks and Libraries, including $500,000 to redesign Rondo Library to better support our Homework Help Center, workforce programs, and designated areas for children and teen readers. Also added by City Council are additional rec center programming and hours on the city’s East Side.
  • Funding for the city’s Commercial Vitality Zones, with $750,000 aimed at ensuring neighborhood commercial areas are effectively utilized.
  • Two new, full-time community engagement staff members in the Saint Paul Police department to reach communities of color, as part of Police Chief Todd Axtell’s new Community Engagement Unit.
  • The City’s highly successful Community Ambassadors program will get a dedicated $150,000 in ongoing funding.
  • The Saint Paul Police Department will add five new officers to the force, bringing the sworn complement to an historic 620, up from the 576 officers when the Mayor took office.
  • Budget to support average daily staffing of 114 in the Saint Paul Fire Department, with continued expansion of the Fire Medic Cadet program, bringing on four more cadets in 2017.

Underfunded Local Government Aid continues to challenge local communities

In 2003, 42 percent of Saint Paul’s general fund budget was made up of LGA. Local government aid is conferred to local communities by the state, which has many ways it can collect revenues – including more progressive tools like state income tax. Beginning with the Minnesota Miracle, LGA was a way for cities to encourage growth and still stabilize property taxes – particularly in Saint Paul and Greater Minnesota communities. Today, Saint Paul is more than $48 million below the certified 2003 LGA appropriation level, after adjusting for inflation.

Right of Way

While the city continues to address the Right of Way program, Finance Director Todd Hurley said that under Mayor Coleman’s leadership, Saint Paul has always balanced its budgets.

“The Mayor is pleased that the Council agreed to a conservative approach with regard to our 2017 budget, giving city staff time to fully evaluate any potential budget or policy implications related to the Right of Way program,” said Hurley.

A number of new initiatives originally proposed by the Mayor in August will be moved into a contingency fund until city staff can fully evaluate the Right of Way program and any recommended changes can go to City Council in March.

Open data

Updated budget documents will be added to the new open data portal as soon as possible at budget.stpaul.gov.

A 2017 Budget Summary can be found here