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Carter proposes levy increase, cuts to close St. Paul's budget gap

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Mayor Melvin Carter speaks at a podium
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter delivers 2020 Budget proposal at the Frogtown Community Center on Thursday.
Nina Moini | MPR News

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter on Thursday described how he would deal with the capital city’s $17 million budget gap next year.

He said the shortfall was mostly due to salary growth for city workers and public safety staff.

“Simply put, that means operating the exact same city government as we did this year, with no new investments of programs, would cost us $17 million more,” Carter said during his address at the brand new Frogtown Community Center gymnasium.

Carter is pitching a 4.85 percent increase in the city’s general fund levy. It would amount to less than $5 per month for a median value home, he said. The mayor also proposed $4 million in spending cuts to various city departments — including the police and fire departments.

Carter proposes cutting five officer positions and reducing the fire academy by two weeks.

”And of course the training still continues in the first weeks months and years and continuously,” he said.

Mayor Melvin Carter speaks to audience
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter speaks to the audience at the Frogtown Community Center during his 2020 budget address.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Carter’s budget also includes $2 million to reconstruct Fire Station number 7 on the city’s east side.

To help law enforcement, Carter said he’s built a program called Familiar Faces, which has identified less than three dozen people who’ve had nearly 1,000 interactions with police and other first responders in the past year. Carter said helping those individuals, many of whom are experiencing homelessness and mental illness, with transitional housing and case managers will save time for police.

Carter also announced the city has received a half million dollars from the state to start a pilot program called College Bound Saint Paul.

”Our moonshot dream to start every child born in St. Paul on the pathway to college from birth with $50 in a college savings account is finally a reality effective Jan. 1, 2020,” he said.

The mayor wrapped up his address by acknowledging a need for better streets.

Alluding to a city report that found St. Paul residential streets, which have a 60-year lifespan, are currently on a 289-year replacement rate, he suggested more county and state funds would be needed.

”St. Paul taxpayers are not alone in using and causing wear and tear on our city streets and we should not have to bear the cost of maintaining them alone, either,” he said.

Carter’s budget now heads to the city council for consideration. City leaders will hold public meetings in the coming months to get input from residents. Council members have until the end of the year to submit a final 2020 budget.