Newspaper article

St. Paul Council Approves Budget; City's Tax Levy to Increase 7.9 Percent

Newspaper article

St. Paul Council Approves Budget; City's Tax Levy to Increase 7.9 Percent

Article excerpt

Things were still pretty bad when the St. Paul city council got around to adopting the city's 2017 budget Wednesday. But it was less bad than members had thought it would be just a week ago.

The combination of an adverse court decision and the loss of some hoped for money from the state meant that a budget plan most council members loved got transformed into one that most of them resented, with proposed improvements in parks programming, job training and even a battle against bugs at risk.

And while the budget adopted Wednesday evening still left many new initiatives on hold -- technically, they were set aside in a contingency budget that won't be funded until later (if ever) -- some budgetary craftsmanship allowed a few priorities to be put back in.

Among the initiatives put back in were funding for Community Ambassadors, who work with young people to steer them away from trouble; two civilian police outreach workers; an increases in parks programming and hours; and a youth job readiness program called Right Start.

It wasn't much -- a total of $755,375 in funding from a $12.3 million batch of spending that had been put on hold. But it allowed council members and Mayor Chris Coleman to have some positive feelings toward a $267 million general fund spending plan, paid for partially by a 7.9 percent increase in the property tax levy.

"Obviously it's a difficult budget year," said council President Russ Stark. "While this is a significant levy increase that we're getting ready to adopt, at the same time it's the responsible thing to do in response to the needs for services and investment in the city."

Both the levy and the various city budgets passed with all seven council votes.

Of the spending items added in Wednesday, Stark said: "A number of priority initiatives were time sensitive or just so critical to this body that we wanted to make sure got started right off the bat."

Council Member Jane Prince said that despite the late budget shocks and the need to place so many initiatives on hold, "I'm really proud and grateful to my colleagues." The restored initiatives will allow the city to "create more safe spaces for kids," Prince said. …

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