The issue: property taxes all over the state are rising. The heaviest is in the Metro area and St. Paul residents are furious. As they should be, after receiving notice of double digit increases in the property taxes of Ramsey County. Tuesday night I attended a “Truth in Taxation” hearing presented by some of the major political players of Ramsey County. In attendance: members of the Ramsey County School Board, members of the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority, and Mayor Randy Kelly.
These stakeholders presented the budgets for the public school system, Ramsey County, and the city of St. Paul. Afterwards, the meeting was opened to the public for commentary. Everyone was allowed to speak and everyone was allowed 2-minutes. I attended the meeting for two purposes (1) to learn how the funding of transportation will affect property taxes and how the city plans to fund projects such as the Central Corridor and the Union Depot and (2) as a resident of Ramsey County living in Falcon Heights it is interesting to see the property taxes of surrounding neighborhoods and the public opinion on taxes and the accountability of politicians.
There were many residents who voiced their opposition to these higher taxes, although they understood why they are occurring. Many areas in the United States are experiencing the fiscal squeeze, particularly in Minnesota where we have a Republican Governor that has vowed to keep a “No New Tax” pledge to please his lapdogs at the “Tax Payers League of Minnesota” and the rest of the Neo-cons who have hi-jacked the country at the start of the new millennium This is in keeping with the national trend of removing state and federal programs and forcing local municipalities and counties to bare the cost of providing basic services and funding higher education. So while I understand that people were upset about their taxes going up, they were complaining to the wrong people. Many of them should have contacted Governor Pawlenty and our state senators telling them how these no new tax pledges are hurting our cities and forcing residents from their homes due to rising property taxes that cities are raising to close the gap.
As I mentioned, I attended the meeting in the hopes of learning more information on transit funding for St. Paul. By attending the meeting, I learned that a transit levy is the latest proposal for funding of transit improvements in St. Paul. I had thought that the county had suggested the use of dedicated 1/2 cent sales tax to transit funding. As many know, much of the highways and road networks are heavily subsidized by the federal, state, and local governments. How can transit get a piece of this economic pie? By following the example of cities such as Denver, Phoenix, and Portland who all have major transit investment underway through dedicated sales taxes, we can join the cities reinvesting in their older neighborhoods and planning for new residents.
I am going to try and cut this short so that it does not become a rant. However, if St. Paul does not figure out how to get LRT or some sort of new transit on Univrsity Avenue and the necessary improvements to the Union Depot, it will be much harder and much more expensive to build the transitways envisioned by the Metro Council for 2030, it may be 2050 or even 2060 if we are lucky based on current trends.
Let’s capitalize on the success of Hiawatha and get this done for the state, for St. Paul and its residents.