Home Local News St. Paul mayor wants 1 percent sales tax for road, park maintenance

St. Paul mayor wants 1 percent sales tax for road, park maintenance

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The city of St. Paul intends to ask the Legislature for approval to put a new 1% sales tax on the ballot with the intention of repairing the capital city’s deteriorating roadways and outdated park infrastructure.

The plan, which was introduced by Mayor Melvin Carter’s office on Tuesday, would produce close to $1 billion over the following 20 years.

At its meeting on January 4, the municipal council is anticipated to add the proposal to its legislative agenda. According to Carter spokesperson Kamal Baker on Tuesday, the city would have two years to place the initiative on the ballot if the Legislature gave its approval.

6.875% is the state sales tax rate. The city currently levies a 0.5% sales tax, which supports neighborhood redevelopment initiatives as well as paying down the St. Paul RiverCentre. Since 2017, Ramsey County has added a 0.5% sales tax to help fund public transit.

If the city is successful in raising the new tax for roads and parks, consumers would pay $108.88 instead of $107.88 for every $100 worth of goods and services in the city.

Officials in St. Paul have long lamented the state of city-owned roadways and sounded the alarm about mounting maintenance requirements inside their much-lauded but obviously deteriorating parks facilities. A parks and recreation department official estimated the department’s backlog in maintenance at above $100 million in September.

Carter’s budget plan for 2023 contained $24 million for postponed parks and recreation upkeep, but officials admitted that many requirements would still go unfulfilled.

According to the city, if adopted, the higher sales tax would bring in $984 million over the following 20 years. The following are the expenditure priorities listed by the mayor’s office:

• $738 million will be used to replace and upgrade the city’s trail system, arterial and collector highways, and other roadways. Around 200 miles of arterial routes controlled by the city connect local roads to the regional, state, and federal highway networks. The city’s arterial and collector roads were given a 49 on a scale of 100, which is considered “fair to bad,” in a study by St. Paul Public Works in 2019. The assessment also increased the risk that they would further deteriorate to a 29, or “very poor,” within 20 years.

The $738 million injection, according to the mayor’s office, would enable the city’s major roads to achieve an average score of 70, or “satisfactory” condition, which is the norm for municipalities in the sector.

• $246 million for the city’s parks and leisure centers, which are ranked No. 2 in the country by the Trust for Public Land. Despite the praise, the parks’ infrastructure is deteriorating; the average building is close to 40 years old. The worst-condition parks, community centers, trails, linkages, and sporting facilities would be the primary beneficiaries of the sales tax revenue, according to the mayor’s office.

A new visitor center and National Park Service headquarters at Crosby Farm Regional Park as well as a 1.5-mile River Balcony promenade along the city cliff might also be supported by the additional parks funds.

The city council spoke about employing a lobbyist to follow discussions on the proposed 1% sales tax at legislative hearings in the early months of 2020. Council members at the time argued over whether the money would go toward supporting early childhood education, roads, or other infrastructure, and they were concerned that the money may be distributed too widely. Because of the escalating coronavirus epidemic, the proposal lost steam.

At the time, officials highlighted that in order to pay for basic infrastructure requirements, the city depended primarily on property tax hikes, which frequently disproportionately affected the city’s poorest homeowners.

Even yet, there will undoubtedly be some opposition to a municipal sales tax increase in the same communities and elsewhere.

Major businesses like Macy’s and Sears have moved from the capital city, which was formerly a popular shopping destination for suburban residents, to suburban malls or newer online rivals like Amazon over time. Increasing the city’s sales tax might make surviving commercial areas like Grand Avenue, which have already lost some shop space, even more burdensome.

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