For the last budget of his first term, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is proposing to put more officers on the streets, close recreation centers and raise the property tax levy by the lowest amount in his tenure.

The Hamline Midway Library would not be closed, but overall library hours would be reduced. General fund spending would decrease, and so would the city's work force.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Coleman talked in general terms -- he declined to give many details -- about some of the things residents can expect when he delivers his budget address Tuesday at Galtier Plaza.

"We have made tough choices," he said. "But I am really optimistic."

Coleman is seeking reelection this fall and is being challenged by political first-timer Eva Ng and perennial candidates Sharon Anderson and Bill Dahn.

The sagging economic climate has made budgeting trickier for all, and discussions in St. Paul have been going since the end of 2008 when it became clear local aid payments from the state were likely to be reduced to help balance the state's deficit.

In the end, St. Paul had to make up a $5 million hole this year and faces an $11.6 million state aid gap next year.

Measures were taken in December to begin controlling costs, and they softened the blow heading into 2010, Coleman said. A hiring and spending freeze went into effect. Voluntary retirement packages were offered, and some people were laid off or took reduced hours. The mayor's office, the City Council and other nonunion employees have accepted pay cuts or pay freezes for this year.

Coleman said his proposal balances a nearly $21 million shortfall overall.

He's quick to point out that the proposed budget is "structurally balanced," meaning the amount of money going out equals the amount of money coming in.

Coleman said that despite cuts and reduced revenue, it's important to continue to invest in the city. He's likely to reveal some capital projects during his speech.

Coleman and the City Council will hash over the proposed budget between the time he presents it Tuesday and the time it needs to be approved in December.

Here are some likely themes:


The city employs about 3,000 people.

Under Coleman's proposed budget, about 160 jobs would go away. The majority are vacant positions.

About 50 current employees would be laid off across the departments.


A neighborhood uproar broke out in March when the possibility of closing the Hamline Midway Library surfaced. While the city is working with community members on options for the branch's future, there would be no deadline to close the doors in 2010.

Hours throughout the 13-branch system will be reduced, but Deputy Mayor Ann Mulholland said users will find more computers.

Parks and recreation

The issue of reducing the number of rec centers operated by the city has come up before in recent budget cycles, and the city has agreements with organizations to run eight rec centers now.

Another eight rec centers could be closed or operated by another organization next year, and it's likely a few in disrepair would be torn down, Coleman said.

Other rec centers might be renovated, and some outdoor features, including athletic fields, would be upgraded.

Money will also be put into resources for fighting the emerald ash borer.

Public safety

Coleman had said earlier this year that cutting police and fire resources was a possibility.

But money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping the city hire about 28 police officers. That will put the total number of officers about 610.

The money runs out in three years, however, and the city would then have to take over the costs.

Federal money will also allow the Fire Department to add some people.

Public works

Certain parts of the Public Works budget have experienced significant overruns in the past two years, and various steps -- such as lengthening time between street maintenance routines -- have been taken to get things in line.

The 2010 proposed budget will call for a "reasonable" increase in fees for such things as sidewalk and alley maintenance, tree trimming, traffic lights, snow plowing and other city tasks because of cost hikes, Mulholland said.

Property taxes

The property tax levy will rise, Coleman said, but it will be the lowest increase since he took office. He declined to give the exact number prior to his budget speech.

Property owners have seen their St. Paul levy amounts rise by 9 percent, 15.1 percent and 8 percent in the administration's first three years.

The maximum property-tax levy will need to be set by Sept. 9.

Chris Havens • 612-673-4148