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Mayor Coleman seeks East Side input on 2015 city budget
St. Paul budget gap tops $9.6 million
Mayor Chris Coleman met with East Side residents in the community room at Hmong Village on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 1 to discuss budget priorities for 2015.
The public meeting was the last in a series of four that Coleman hosted across St. Paul during July and August. The goal of the meeting was to invite public input on budget priorities as the city faces a projected $9.6 million budget gap.
The community weighs in
Coleman blames the budget gap largely on Local Government Aid reductions that were made in 2003, which, he said in a statement, “have not been fully restored.”
The 2015 budget will fill the gap while continuing city investments in the community, maintaining quality city services and keeping costs down, Coleman hopes.
It’s a tall order which is why the mayor isn’t looking to fill it on his own.
“It is critically important that we make it as easy as possible for Saint Paul residents to participate in discussions about our investment priorities,” Coleman said in a statement.
Close to 25 community members attended the meeting, not enough to fill even half the seats in the community room, but better than the reported 15 people who attended the mayor’s first meeting on the West Side on July 16, which also ended 30 minutes early.
By contrast, East Side residents kept Coleman busy during the hour-long session with questions about job creation, city services, property taxes and more.
When asked about the government’s role in creating jobs, Coleman cited the city’s investment in the community.
“You saw a lot of investment on the East Side (this year),” he told the audience. This year, the city invested $35.8 million in Metro State’s new Science Education Center and distributed more than $800,000 in Neighborhood STAR funding to local businesses and organizations.
The city also saw the redevelopment of industrial areas, such as the former 3M site in Dayton’s Bluff, which the St. Paul Port Authority converted into the Beacon Bluff business center in 2013. The site continues to bring new businesses and new jobs to the East Side.
Sustaining St. Paul
Coleman’s budget priorities include benefits to both longtime residents of the city and prospective newcomers.
“When young people get out of college they have the choice to go anywhere. Why will they choose to come here?” he asked. “It’s because of the quality of life they will have.”
Coleman stressed the importance of quality city services. To prepare for the budget gap, he’s asked city departments to cut costs by eliminating aspects of each department that are inefficient, outdated and unnecessary. His goal is to reduce costs without compromising city services.
”Public safety and quality services are a must,” he said.
Supporting longtime residents and businesses is also a must, Coleman said, adding that he and the city council have worked hard to keep property taxes down. He said that residents should not necessarily expect a property tax increase this year because of the budget gap, pointing out that he and the city council were able to fix the budget gap last year without raising the property tax levy.
Still, he didn’t fail to mention that he could reduce the $9.6 million gap by increasing property taxes by 9.6%.
“(But) I’m not going to do that,” he said. “I don’t think anyone on the council is going to do that.”
What he and the city council will do is still up for debate. Coleman’s budget address will be held on August 13, 2014, at the newly renovated Schmidt Brewery site at 882 W. Seventh St.
Residents are encouraged to share their budget priorities through Twitter using the hashtag #stpaulbudget or via an online form at http://www.stpaul.gov/.
Kaylin Creason can be reached at email@example.com or at 651-748-7825.