St. Paul mayor's proposed 2021 budget includes reductions in nearly all departments, but no levy or layoffs

Following challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest following the death of George Floyd, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter's proposed city budget for 2021 features reductions in nearly all departments, but no tax levy increase or layoffs.

"To be clear, this budget will result in significant pain points for our community," said Carter. "Our city employees will likely face reduced hours and reduced titles. And managing vacancies and attrition will likely lead to staffing challenges across city departments."

This year, the city faced $16 million in COVID-19 response costs and almost $4 million in costs due to the civil unrest. 

To make up for financial impacts, there will be budget reductions in every city department, except the Office of Technology and Communications, which will receive a 2.6 percent increase. Carter says this department will receive an increase due to the pandemic response, which has led to a greater reliance on virtual technologies.

Among the departments getting the largest budget reductions includes the police, parks and recreation, public library agency, public works and safety and inspections. The public library agency will get a 6.9% decrease in funds compared to 2020, which is the largest percentage drop across the departments.

Policing changes

Carter is also pushing for changes in police response, which would include using other resources to respond to some 911 calls that may not require an armed officer, but rather a social worker or counselor. 

"Our goal is to lighten the load for our officers so that they can spend their time focused on the reasons they became an officer in the first place: helping us to prevent and respond to violent crime, and to engage in the proactive community outreach that the Saint Paul Police Department is well known for nationally," said Carver.

Overall, the police budget is proposed to get a 0.8% decrease in funding compared to 2020, which amounts to $801,000.

COVID-19 impact

The city will be receiving $23.5 million of CARES Act funding to help with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Carter says $11 million of that funding will go toward helping those experiencing homelessness. The city is working to determine what amount of the city's $16 million in response is eligible for the CARES funds.

Additionally, the plan does not dip into the emergency reserves. Senior leadership in the city will also have a 10% pay reduction.

The St. Paul City Council must sign off on the budget by the end of the year.