St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2021 budget includes more than $8 million in cuts as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force local leaders to make tough financial decisions.
Carter announced the $627 million budget in his address Thursday. While the budget does reflect reductions compared to last year, it won’t result in any layoffs of city employees. The pandemic has cost the city $16 million, while the recent civil unrest cost almost $4 million. Carter said reductions were necessary to account for that spending without raising property taxes.
“Developing a budget that neither raises property taxes, nor lays off city staff put a lot of pressure on every other budget item. In this process, we explored, and I accepted every viable reduction strategy we could, in every core department to meet these goals,” Carter said in his address.
Without reducing services and spending, Carter said the property tax levy would increase by 13%. The city was also assisted by the $23.5 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government.
More than 77 vacant full-time positions are not filled in the budget thanks to a hiring freeze, which Carter acknowledged will make things even more challenging for city departments. And while the budget doesn't include layoffs, it will likely result in “reduced hours and reduced titles.”
Every city department will see budget reductions except for the Office of Technology and Communications, where the budget increased by 2.6%.
According to the Pioneer Press, the city won’t enforce mandatory cuts to sworn officers, but won't fill 40 vacant officer positions within the St. Paul Police Department this year. The city’s police budget in the General Fund is reduced by 0.8%, or around $800,000, in the proposal.
In his address, Carter also said the city’s budget presents a chance to examine areas where police officers have had to step into roles they’re not trained for during 911 calls.
“As we look into our data for 911 calls and the work that our police officers do, it’s readily apparent and something that officers have told us for quite some time, that they end up serving as more than just police officers in our community,” Carter said. “They end up serving as social workers, as mental and chemical health therapists, as housing counselors and in a number of other capacities.”
Other General Fund changes in Mayor Melvin Carter’s budget:
- Parks & Recreation: - $1,118,184 (- 2.8%)
- Public Library Agency: - $1,346,754 (- 6.9%)
- Public Works: - $1,935,810 (- 6.3%)
- Safety & Inspections: - $1,147,437 (- 5.4%)
- Emergency Management: - $80,638 (-14.8%)
The St. Paul City Council will have until December to gather feedback on the budget and adopt it.