St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter unveiled his proposed 2024 budget late last week, bringing forward a slew of proposals to address things such as street maintenance, public safety and medical debt in the city.
The mayor’s budget amounts to more than $820 million dollars, while including a decrease in some homeowners' property taxes. However, he also proposed a 1% sales tax increase for the next 20 years to address park and sidewalk maintenance. If the city council adopts his plan, that question will be brought to voters in November.
“We hear often — because it’s true — that any increase in taxes is shouldered most heavily by our lowest income families and smallest neighborhood businesses,” Carter said. “But it’s easy to forget that those same families, those same businesses also bear the brunt when we disinvest community services and infrastructure. Finding that balance proves to be our toughest task every year.”
Carter said he also intends to spend nearly $9 million on firefighters and police, due to a one-time $13.6 million investment by the state legislature. The city and the firefighters union are currently at odds over their contract, something which came to a head moments before Mayor Carter unveiled his proposal. He also unveiled the plans for a new fire station and plans to expand EMT and paramedic training for firefighters. Union members say this does not meet their demands for increased wages nor does it address staffing shortages.
“As an all-hazard response agency, our SPFD personnel don’t just respond to fires. They are also often the first to arrive at medical emergencies. Our fire department is also the busiest fire department in the state,”Carter said. “Over the last decade, SPFD has experienced a 64% increase in run volume. Last year, our fire department responded to over 61,000 calls for service, and are on pace to exceed 65,000 in 2023. In keeping with our resolve to build cost-efficient business models, Chief Inks and his team have recently launched a peak staffing pilot, complementing our 24-hour staffing model for the first time with the ability to boost department capacity during times of predictably higher demand.”
The mayor also announced a partnership with local hospitals and non-profit RIP Medical Debt to rid St. Paul residents of over $100 million in past-due medical debt. RIP Medical debt buys medical debt from local hospitals for pennies on the dollar and instead of pursuing it, they forgive it. All the major hospitals in the St. Paul area have agreed to participate in the partnership.
The city council is set to hold public hearings before adopting the budget.