St. Paul mayor Carter proposes property tax rise, and to keep the number of officers level

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter discusses the city budget.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter gives his first budget address on Aug. 9, 2018.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter proposes to raise property taxes to pay for more programs for youth, businesses and to reconstruct streets.

The mayor gave his first budget address at Washington Technology Magnet School in the city's North End.

The proposed levy increase of 11.5 percent amounts to around $76 more per year for a median-value home, Carter said, and would fund "$16 million of new investments in our children and families, our workers, businesses and innovators, and our streets, sidewalks and bikeways."

Carter also recommended paring the budget for 2019 by $2.5 million. In 2018, the city was expected to spend $568.87 million and had to deal with a $14.6 million deficit, mostly from rises in police and fire contracts.

Mayor Carter said he opposed adding 50 police officers.

"My proposal not only maintains our all-time high sworn strength at 626 officers, it raises their salaries as well, to reflect an increase I approved earlier this year," Carter said. "We hold our officers to the highest standards of transparency and accountability, and they deserve our support."

Carter also said he has spent time with the family of Billy Hughes, a man who was shot and killed by two St. Paul officers on Sunday. He said the "historical trauma it invokes, demonstrates a clear, ongoing need to constantly revisit, rethink and renew the underlying relationship and critical trust that must flow between our officers and our neighbors."

Carter praised St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell for his work toward that effort, and said they continue to work together on a program to "embed" mental health professionals and social workers within the police department.

Noting the city's paramedics need more support, the mayor proposed a new unit to handle about half of the calls for medical help that are not considered emergencies. Carter said he proposes $500,000 for a Basic Life Support Response Team of emergency medical technicians at three fire stations to help with "less serious calls."

Carter also proposed an infusion of $10 million toward affordable housing, along with $2 million to be used to combat the housing crisis in the form of annual investments.

The plan is to construct rental units, support current homeowners and downpayment assistance and "explore a series of pilot programs and options to reduce housing production costs and increase density."

Carter also plans to ask the city council to amend the current year's budget and use $100,000 to provide legal support for people facing deportation, and other immigration challenges.

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