St. Paul budget plan: Boost property tax, create jobs, add cops

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St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman
St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman speaks last summer.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News file

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman Tuesday laid out a 2017 budget plan that includes a 4 percent property tax bump and new spending for job creation, cops and fighting emerald ash borers.

The proposed property tax bump is a departure from the mayor's recent budget proposals. The owner of a $150,000 home in the city would be about $40 more in taxes and fees for the year, although that amount would vary. If approved by the City Council, it could be the biggest increase since 2012.

The tax hike would run significantly higher than last year's roughly 1 percent increase in annual consumer price index inflation. Coleman said inflation alone would have added $11 million to the budget for 2017, but the city is making adjustments next year to cut costs.

There is some new spending in the $562 million budget plan. One initiative is aimed at responding to a recent spike in gun violence.

"After two people were shot and killed at Indian Mounds Park in April, we came together as a community to face down this ongoing threat," Coleman said. "The proposed budget delivers on the promise I made that day to add five additional officers to the department, bringing the sworn complement to a historic 620, up from 576 officers when I became mayor over a decade ago."

Coleman also said the city needed to spend nearly $2 million to fight emerald ash borer, an insect infestation that's killing trees on boulevards and park land.

To spruce up the city's economy, Coleman proposes taking $2 million from the proceeds of the sale of the Penfield apartment development and set up a new "job opportunity fund" that would offer loans aimed at bringing 3,000 new jobs to the city by 2020.

The fund would focus on closing racial disparities and will use Metropolitan Council data to target the funds efficiently, said Jonathan Sage-Martinson, the city's planning and economic development director.

Coleman noted some caveats in his address. He said the budget plan presumed a $3 million increase in state aid promised in a tax bill Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed this spring. The mayor urged state officials agree to a special session.

The mayor also said city has spent $2 million responding to protests over the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by police in in Falcon Heights last month. The mayor added that he hoped state or federal funds might cover that cost.

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