St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has been laying out his plan to keep the city's streets swept and plowed at a series of community meetings.
The mayor's office is reworking how the city pays for street maintenance in response to a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling last year. St. Paul had been funding road upkeep by making almost all property owners pay right of way assessments based on their street frontage.
The court determined the assessment program was not a fee, as the city argued, but a tax, and the city has to comply with constitutional restrictions on taxes.
The city was generating more than $30 million annually from the right of way program, and the court's decision put a big hole in the city's budget, Coleman said Monday at Oxford Community Center, where he held the last of three meetings on his proposed changes.
"We still have to plow the streets, we still have to light the streets," Coleman said.
Finance Director Todd Hurley said the mayor's administration plans to continue assessing people based on their property's street frontage, but only for certain services like lighting and sweeping streets. The city would collect about $10 million from those charges.
St. Paul would get the rest of the money needed for street maintenance, approximately $20 million, from property taxes, Hurley said.
Under the Coleman administration's plan, owners of a median value home in St. Paul — estimated at $161,200 — would pay about $20 more than they did this year for street maintenance, Hurley said. Higher-value homes would see a larger increase in what owners pay and lower-value properties could see a drop in their costs, according to city estimates.
Several residents said Monday they are worried about rising property taxes.
"At the end of the day, we don't have a lot of revenue sources in the city of St. Paul" apart from property taxes, Coleman said.
Some City Council members are interested in shifting all of the maintenance costs to property taxes and ending the use of assessments. That funding debate will likely take place during budget talks this fall.