City reduces assessments

After 2 months of closed door discussion, the City of St. Paul has presented its proposed revisions to the 2018 Mill & Overlay assessments. Acknowledging moving testimony from residents, the City took the following action:

  • New assessment rolls with reduced rates were presented for the four laid over projects (Stryker, Forest, Victoria, Arlington), which were approved at the June 19th meeting.
  • The four previously approved projects (Franklin, Western, Third, and Prior) were withdrawn. They will be reintroduced in the coming weeks with revised assessment rolls.

The reductions vary per project, but are up to 60% lower than the original amount billed:

  • Stryker Ave. has been reduced from $57.50 to $22.06 per lft. (62% reduction).
  • Forest St. has been reduced from $40.94 to $18.31 per lft. (55% reduction).
  • Victoria St. has been reduced from $32.63 to $17.02 per lft. (48% reduction).
  • Arlington Ave. has been reduced from $30.08 to $24.61 per lft. (18% reduction).

The reductions will benefit all property owners for 2018, including those who already paid in part or full. Residents that have already made a payment will be receiving a partial refund from the City.

The City did not explain its reasoning in the meeting, but it seems the majority of the difference represents the removal of sidewalk reconstruction costs from the amounts billed directly to residents. These costs will instead come out of the general fund, which means that they will be shared by all residents of St. Paul.

Our Response

We welcome the City’s changes as a positive step towards a fair way to pay for Mill & Overlay work. CM Noecker in particular, along with CP Brendmoen, has been working behind the scenes to reduce the burden these assessments placed on affected property owners. As a result of this process, property owners will in many cases see their individual assessments reduced by thousands of dollars.

We maintain that there is further work to be done. CM Noecker stated that the City Council is open to finding a fairer way to pay for street maintenance work going forward. CM Prince echoed that sentiment – noting that the hardship was ‘astonishing’. She pointed to the disconnect between bike lanes, where the City very much emphasizes that people do not own the roads in front of their homes, and street maintenance, which relies on the fiction that they do. She makes a good point.

Now that the new assessment rolls for Stryker, Forest, Victoria, and Arlington have passed, property owners on these projects who wish to appeal have just 20 days to do so – by July 9th. If you choose not to appeal, you will pay an assessment at the new, reduced rate.

Our position remains that these are taxes, and therefore fail the ‘special benefit’ test amongst other concerns. Despite the City’s welcome changes, we’re still paying thousands of dollars, while our neighbors pay little or nothing to maintain major streets that benefit the entire community.

We’ll be appealing our own assessment. If you’re considering appealing yours, we’re happy to talk more. Please contact us at oppose@victoriastreetassessment.com.