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St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, left, and Council President Kathy Lantry.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

St. Paul approves a no-drama budget that holds line on tax levy

  • Article by: Kevin Duchschere
  • Star Tribune
  • December 11, 2013 - 10:26 PM

 

The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday approved a $515.5 million budget for next year that includes more money for economic development, libraries, building inspectors and East Side youth programs.

What won’t go up is the property tax levy, which Mayor Chris Coleman proposed keeping flat for 2014 and the City Council affirmed.

The tax bill on a median-valued $130,500 home in St. Paul, including other taxing jurisdictions, will go down 6.2 percent next year, a savings of $126.

City Council President Kathy Lantry said that the budget process “went very, very well” and noted that the council made only minor changes in the mayor’s budget, which he proposed in August.

As recently as two years ago, the mayor and the council engaged in last-minute budget maneuvering that uncovered a wide gap in priorities.

This time, Lantry thanked Coleman for “proposing a budget that I think met certainly most of our priorities. I’m sure we all wish we had more to spend on certain things, but on balance it really was a good budget.”

It was only the second time in Coleman’s eight years as mayor that he sought no increase in the tax levy. An additional $10 million in state aid was the main reason why the levy could remain flat, he said. He was re-elected in a landslide victory last month.

The final budget spends about $5 million more than Coleman’s proposal, using revenues that either had been underestimated, unspent or recently added.

For instance, an increase in the number of building permits issued by the city yielded more fees than expected, which will be used to pay for two additional building inspectors.

The budget includes improvements in St. Paul’s recycling program that includes the launch of a single-sort system next year and more recycling education.

It also creates a “City Innovations” team, proposed by Coleman to save money through more efficient delivery of services.

About $1.4 million was added for economic development of neighborhood and cultural projects, and there will be an additional $750,000 to bolster library collections at the renovated Highland and Sun Ray branches and elsewhere in the city.

Youth programs at recreation centers in troubled neighborhoods, especially on the East Side, will get a $225,000 boost.

St. Paul is adding $375,000 more next year to combat the emerald ash borer, on top of $1.1 million already being spent.

Five police officers will be added to the department, thanks to grant funding obtained by reallocating some resources.

 

Kevin Duchschere • 651-925-5035

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