The St. Paul City Council approved a maximum 11.5 percent property tax levy increase Wednesday, but council members vowed to get that number down before approving the 2019 budget at the end of the year.
“This levy is higher than we need it to be,” said Council Member Chris Tolbert. “There is a lot in this budget to like, but we also have to be considerate of taxpayer dollars.”
Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2019 budget proposal called for the 11.5 percent levy increase, which amounts to about $16 million more than 2018. The extra money would go into affordable housing, recreation programs and street resurfacing, among other initiatives.
If the levy increases 11.5 percent, the owner of a median-valued single-family home, which in St. Paul is $186,200, would pay $76 more in property taxes next year. But increasing the overall tax levy does not mean everyone’s property tax bills will rise by that same percentage.
Council members also approved maximum levies on Wednesday for the city’s library system and Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA). The HRA is projecting a budget deficit in 2021, and city staff asked council members to set the top levy at nearly $4.5 million — the maximum allowed under state law — to help avoid that.
Before the vote to set the maximum HRA levy, some council members said they still have questions about the HRA’s proposed budget and will try to approve a final levy that is less than the maximum.
“I have a lot of concerns about pushing the gas all the way to the max,” said Council Member Rebecca Noecker. “It seems like we should be looking for more efficiencies and other ways to make do with what we have.”