How unallotment affects your city

On MPR’s Midday this afternoon, Rep. Loren Solberg predicted massive property tax increases because of Gov. Pawlenty’s “unallotment.”

At the same time, the League of Minnesota Cities has just posted a Department of Revenue spreadsheet showing the impact on each city in the state. Find it here.

The League makes clear that pushing many of the cuts to the second year of the state’s two-year budget gives officials some flexibility…


For cities, approximately one-third of the reduction will occur in 2009 and two-thirds will occur in 2010. This “backloading” of the cuts will allow cities the most flexibility and longest time frame to make budgetary adjustments.

How familiar are you with how your city spends tax money? What would you be willing to do without if you were given a choice? (Update: Mitch Berg has an impressive list here)

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    The “expect massive property tax increases” game – combined with the inevitable response from city government, “We’ll cut police and fire first, if we don’t get our increases!”, is a singularly gutless con game run by a party that is addicted to out-of-control spending.

    What can we do without? Everything “non-essential”, until the fiscal crisis is over (and, speaking as a good fiscal conservative, forever in some cases. What does that mean?

    Speaking as a St. Paulite (cribbing quite a few ideas from a St. Paulite commenter on my blog, who took the liberty of catalogueing quite a list):

    Privatize snow plowing.

    refrigerated outdoor hockey rinks (ahem)

    STAR program arts grants

    vacant building enforcement and a good chunk of non-essential Code activity;

    All funding for neighborhood councils;

    All funding for economic development – HRA and the Port Authority; if they were doing a decent job, we wouldn’t have this problem anyway;

    Most of licensing and inspection;

    Most of the Mayor and Council staff (the Mayor has 24 aides, most of them with assistants)

    The City-owned golf courses (sell all three of ‘em!);

    all parks-and-recreation programs and park improvements;

    meter maids;

    convention bureau;

    All money going to support the Central Corridor;

    the Youth Job Corps;

    Every committee, board and commission and all their staff from the Advisory Committee on Aging through the Fair Carousel Board to the Truth in Housing Board of Evaluators.

    Start charging at least a nominal fee to attend Como Zoo; it doesn’t have to be much, but during the fiscal crisis, every little bit helps.

    Remove the costly. wasteful and excessive security at city and county offices. This would have the salutary effect of making city/county workers a lot more circumspect in their demands on the citizenry. That could only be a good thing.

    Which (I say to echo my commenter) is not to say these programs are bad, or of no worth; just that they are not of sufficient priority to justify sapping police or fire protection OR raise property taxes on people who are already hurting from both excessive property taxes and, let’s not forget, the economy.

  • JSmith

    So, you basically want to cut revenue streams, transportation, economic development, and create starving artists?

    Niiice.

    I also live in St Paul, in fact I live right downtown. Guess what? We need the train in order to help retail business boom (it’s slowly picking up with the promise of things to come), and ease transportation (sans motor vehicles) between the two cities. University Avenue needs it too. What neighborhood do they live in? They must be out of the loop.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    So, you basically want to cut revenue streams, transportation, economic development, and create starving artists?

    How to answer that? I mentioned nothing about streets and roads; the buses are the Met Council’s gig. Economic Development is quite easily privatized; the Chamber of Commerce can take the lead on it. Starving artists? I’ve been an artist myself, but I’m not sure what it is about “art” that entitles the “artist” to the proceeds of another’s labor even in the best of times. When times are tight? If you ask me to choose between cops and firemen and libraries on the one hand and “artists” on the other, it’s not even a choice. Sorry, Joshua-Micah; get a day job like the rest of us.

    Niiice.

    Whatever. Tough times mean tough choices. I made mine – which is what Bob asked for.

    I also live in St Paul, in fact I live right downtown. Guess what? We need the train in order to help retail business boom (it’s slowly picking up with the promise of things to come),

    It’s slowly picking up, but I STRONGLY suspect that it has nothing to do with the train, and more to do with the fact that it’s the fastest growing residential neighborhood in town. Business vacancies aren’t even slowing down.

    and ease transportation (sans motor vehicles) between the two cities.

    And that’s one of the big misconceptions – one one which I’ve gotten at least some bipartisan agreement. The Central Corridor will NOT cut down on congestion. Indeed, the CC’s layout is groaningly stupid; it might replace the 50 bus, but not the 16. There isn’t THAT much inter-downtown traffic; since it will only stop every mile, it’ll hardly scratch traffic from Midway and Frogtown; it’ll turn Snelling/Uni into an even bigger nightmare than it is, immediately (it might require an *overpass* in the Midway!) and since its goal is to create a de-facto “third downtown” up in the St. Paul Warehouse District (between Raymond and Fairview), it’ll increase congestion there (since relatively few of those people will be able to do ALL their daily travelling on what amounts to an express train).

    Oh, yeah:

    University Avenue needs it too.

    About like it “needs” to be firebombed. Since the train will only stop every mile between Snelling and the Capitol, it’ll do NOTHING for the small businesses, especially Asian ones, along Uni (heretofore a triumph of the free market), while only accelerating the gentrification of Uni/Dale and the SP Warehouse district. It will GUT most of Uni from Fairview to the Capitol, except for the little islands at Lex and Dale.

    Which, need I add, will SHRED Saint Paul’s tax base in the near term.

    What was the term I heard for this?

    Oh yeah: “Niiiiice”.

    What neighborhood do they live in? They must be out of the loop.

    I’m in the Midway. So I’ll indulge in an opinion, by your leave.

  • JSmith

    Argue about the train all you want, but the Hiawatha Light Rail disagrees with you. Construction and business surrounding the train has picked up since its inception. Also, I believe it was a guest on mid-morning a month or so ago who mentioned that if the trains usage was measured in the same way we measured highways it would be the most congested road in Minnesota.

    And living downtown, I can say that part of the increase in residency downtown is the promise of things to come. Also, along with the train are coming a series of building revitalization projects into downtown to prepare for the increase in pedestrian/business traffic. People in the area are definitely looking forward to these things. They are also looking forward to the quick route between the two downtowns, which in some cases will drastically cut travel time.

    I feel I should ask if you have lived in an area with an extensive passenger train network before?

  • JSmith

    Additionally throughout history artists have relied on grants and scholarships in order to “do art” for a living. Often these were from nobles of a region. In the United States we don’t have nobles, so we have government sponsored endowments instead.

  • http://www.shotinthedark.info MBerg

    Argue about the train all you want, but the Hiawatha Light Rail disagrees with you.

    Er…how? Again – even with its “success”, 2/3 of its operating funds come from taxes, not fares. If you believe the end justifies the means, I suppose that’s acceptable, but I’d like to see the government be a MUCH better steward of our finances than that.

    Construction and business surrounding the train has picked up since its inception.

    Which, given that Hiawatha has been a decrepit and underpeforming strip of land since the ’60′s (when it was razed to make way for rail transit), that’s not really as big a recommendation as you might think. OF COURSE underutilized land in an expensive urban area will start to pick up steam as the economy booms (as it was doing when the LRT went in)!

    Also, I believe it was a guest on mid-morning a month or so ago who mentioned that if the trains usage was measured in the same way we measured highways it would be the most congested road in Minnesota.

    Of course! And if we measured it the way we measure habitrails, it’d be more congested than downtown Macau!

    Seriously – with all due respect (and allowing that you might not have the context right), that’s a meaningless statement.

    And living downtown, I can say that part of the increase in residency downtown is the promise of things to come.

    And I can “say” that Scarlett Johannsen and I have a torrid weekend planned, too.

    I’m not being flippant. You can “say” anything you want. Can you “prove” it? The upswing in people living downtown started in the mid-nineties, when the Central Corridor was a bureaucratic zygote.

    But I’ll meet you halfway; I’d be interested in seeing a disinsterested third-party survey of d/t Saint Paul residents to see how many people have moved there, based on the promise of a train that might, possibly, start tootling down the street in five years.

    People in the area are definitely looking forward to these things.

    Of course they are! If the government built me a big expensive toy, and made everyone else pay for it, I’d be kinda jazzed, too!

    They are also looking forward to the quick route between the two downtowns, which in some cases will drastically cut travel time.

    Yeah, and it’d be great to see how that number divides into 1.4 billion dollars, and how much (if any) time they’ll save over, say, the 94 Express bus. Which, I’ll wager, is minimal to nonexistant.

    I feel I should ask if you have lived in an area with an extensive passenger train network before?

    I feel I should ask you want the Latin term for “Non-sequitur” is? I keep blocking on it.

    Additionally throughout history artists have relied on grants and scholarships in order to “do art” for a living. Often these were from nobles of a region.

    Right. And when the nobles had more important things to attend to, or wasted all their money on other crap, the nobles also cut down on their patronage!

    In the United States we don’t have nobles, so we have government sponsored endowments instead.

    “Royalty did it, so so should we?” Hardly seems like a rationalization an American should be proud of.