Pioneer Press Guest Editorial
January 26, 2017
Thanks to a unanimous Supreme Court decision, St. Paul seems finally to have “found religion” concerning its problematic $32 million Street Assessment Program. The City has conceded that it has no defense to the 2011 court challenge by two Lowertown churches and it has now made a similar concession for later years. Faced with a class action on behalf of all St. Paul property owners in 2016, it has set aside $32 million in its 2017 budget, apparently indicating a possible return to traditional property taxes for that purpose in 2017.
While that would comply with the law, it is not the only legal option. The City should honestly admit that:
The Street Assessment Program (SAP) is really a tax, rather than a special assessment against all property owners, and the City should return to the regular ad valorem property tax to collect that money unless it finds a better and legal alternative
Its public works budget is woefully underfunded
Many city streets are in awful condition and far overdue for major repair
The SAP is inconsistent and unfair not only to nonprofits, but also to small commercial corner properties in the neighborhoods, and all commercially assessed properties which are charged more than the City’s actual costs
The SAP unfairly benefits the most valuable high-rise properties.