August 10, 2018 05:36 AM
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter gave his 2019 budget address Thursday night, highlighting several key spending areas for the city in the next year.
"We've built a big vision for our city," Carter said. "One that requires investment."
The overall proposal comes out to $606 million dollars in 2019, increasing spending from 2018.
Carter said he is proposing $16 million in new investments, which will be paid for by an 11.5 percent increase in the city's property tax levy.
According to Carter, this comes out an extra $76 per year for a median value home.
Carter also said the budget includes $2.5 million in spending reductions across the city.
Much of Carter's address focused on law enforcement costs. Carter said he plans to raise salaries for the city's 626 officers, but is opposed to Chief Todd Axtell's request for 50 new officers.
Instead, Carter says he will focus his efforts on supporting community engagement to combat crime. Carter's budget would also promote four new investigators and two new commanders to the city's police force.
The budget proposal also includes funding for two new public safety programs - $500,000 for a Mental Health Co-Responder Program, which would allow social workers and mental health professionals to work alongside police officers, and another $500,000 for a Basic Life Support Response Team.
Carter said the BLS team would be staffed by emergency medical technicians in three stations, "to meet less serious calls with an appropriate level of service while leaving valuable paramedic and fire assets available to respond to the next call."
Another new initiative highlighted in the announcement includes asking the City Council to amend the current year's budget to include $100,000 for an "immigration legal defense fund." Next year, Carter wants to add a full-time immigration lawyer in the City Attorney's Office.
Two-hundred thousand dollars of Carter's proposed budget would be used to "to triple free rec programming citywide; restoring programming for the hundreds of primarily East African families who live near Highwood Hills Recreation Center, and beginning the process to redesign our Rice Recreation Center just down the street."
Then, there's the issue of the city's infrastructure.
"Anyone who's driven around Saint Paul lately knows our streets need work," Carter said before outlining his public works proposals, which include doubling the city's mill and overlay program in neighborhoods and a three-year plan to mill and overlay every downtown street.
Emerald Ash Borer mitigation will account for $1.2 million of the proposed budget, while an additional $1 million will go toward sidewalk maintenance and $500,000 would be used to fund bike lanes.
Other important budget notes from Carter's speech: the establishment of a citywide College Savings Accounts program, $5 million available in loans from the city's treasury to fund energy efficiency improvements in city buildings and the establishment of an Office of Financial Empowerment to "make better use of the money that already flows into and through our neighborhoods."
Carter dedicated the final portion of his speech to affordable housing.
"The centerpiece of my budget is a set of deep investments aimed at addressing our emerging housing crisis," he said.
The proposed budget includes a one-time, $10 million investment in affordable housing, as well as a $2 million ongoing annual investment.
As for how that money will be spent, Carter said the city will construct rental units, "support new and existing homeownership," and work on reducing housing production costs and increasing density.
"These smart new investments, combined with existing city and federal resources, will result in over $71 million in housing investments in our community over the next three years," Carter said.
Over the next few months, the City Council will hold hearings on Carter's proposed budget. The final budget will be voted on in December.
"I am confident that the series of smart, sensible investments in our budget proposal will help transform and retool Saint Paul to thrive in the economy of the future, while ensuring that all our neighborhoods benefit from our collective prosperity," Carter said.
Anthony Brousseau & Katherine Johnson
Updated: August 10, 2018 05:36 AM
Created: August 09, 2018 09:01 PM
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