The Model is Flawed
In 2017, St. Paul adopted a novel plan to pay for Street Maintenance. Instead of charging properties a fixed Right Of Way (ROW) fee, it would invoice every property owner directly for maintenance work done to their street.
There’s an obvious problem with this: people don’t just use their own street. Whether we’re driving to work or school, meeting friends, jogging or walking the dog, we benefit from all the streets we use along the way. We use our neighbors’ streets and they use ours.
Actually, that’s not quite the whole picture.
- Not every street gets used equally. Major thoroughfares like Victoria Street and the others named on this website get a lot more usage than regular residential streets. Naturally, they cost a lot more to maintain.
- Assessing properties based on linear frontage doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t reflect lot size, home value, or anything else that matters. Each resident along a street, and in every adjacent street, and in the wider community, gets the same benefit from a commuter road.
And instead of getting an inexpensive seal coat like the surrounding streets, these streets get mill u0026amp; overlay, a vastly more expensive process. Because the city charges 50% of the cost of this work to property owners along these streets, they end up paying 7x-25x what their next door neighbor pays to maintain our street network.
Property owners along mill u0026amp; overlay streets are being assessed between 7x and 25x the amount their next door neighbor pays.
The city’s formula allocates the cost of street maintenance as follows (per their website):
- Fees are based on multiplying your property’s street frontage by a rate per foot.
- The rate set for each service is intended to recover the actual cost of providing that service, with two exceptions:
- For mill and overlay projects, the fee to property owners is reduced to recover only 50% of the actual cost. The City pays the remaining 50%.
- For residential properties 1-4 dwelling units with multiple street or alley frontages (such as corner properties), the fee to property owners is reduced to recover only 50% of the actual cost of all street and alley maintenance services.
Seal coating costs $4.71 per linear foot, whereas the estimated rate per linear foot for mill u0026amp; overlay varies per project. In 2018, the average for a project was $71.44 per linear foot with the most expensive rate at $115.00 per linear foot (50% assessed to property owners). Here’s all the assessed rates for 2018:
How does this translate into actual costs to property owners?
- The average city lot is 40-60ft wide but 150ft long.
- Property owners on regular (seal coat) streets pay $4.71 x 40-60ft, i.e. between $188-$282.
- Property owners on Victoria street have been invoiced $32.63 x 40-60ft, or between $1,305-$1,957. Some rates are as high as $57.50 per linear foot, i.e. $2,300-$3,450.
- Corner property owners on regular streets would be charged 50% when each of their corner streets received a seal coat – $447.45-$494.55.
- Corner property owners on Victoria Street will be charged 50% of the cost of mill u0026amp; overlay work on the long side of the lot ($32.63 x 150 i.e. $4,894.50) AND 50% of the seal coat cost of their corner street ($4.71 x 50% x 40-60ft i.e. $94.20-$141.30) for a total of up to $5,035.
- Corner Property owners on two thoroughfares (e.g. Victoria and St. Clair) will be hit AGAIN for Mill u0026amp; Overlay work when their cross street is resurfaced, so can expect to be assessed around $7,000 in total.
Here’s an example of how this plays out, showing a mix of properties on adjacent streets:
A Community Benefit
The additional cost of Mill u0026amp; Overlay work is necessary in the first place only because these streets benefit the entire community:
- Mill u0026amp; Overlay streets are routinely used by fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, commercial vehicles, garbage trucks and delivery vans, for the benefit of the entire neighborhood.
- Mill u0026amp; Overlay streets are generally night plow routes – often the only routes usable by everyone in a neighborhood after heavy snow.
- Mill u0026amp; Overlay streets are used by all kinds of private vehicles for journeys within neighborhoods, beyond them, or for vehicles passing through.
Property owners along these streets use them too, but not especially more than their neighbors. Because they live on these streets, they are subject to greater traffic, noise, competition for on-street parking, and are disturbed by night snow plowing.
These streets cost so much to maintain because everyone uses them. So why should only a handful of people subsidize everyone else’s usage?
A Fairer Outcome
The City has discretion to vary or disregard the proposed assessments. This time, we’re asking the city to assess Mill u0026amp; Overlay work in the same way it would assess Seal Coating on the same street – each property owner would pay $4.71 per linear foot of frontage, with corner property owners paying 50%. The remainder would be met by the City.
This would put all property owners in the neighborhood on an equal footing – we’d all pay $4.71 per linear foot towards resurfacing work on our own street, and would share the additional cost of mill u0026amp; overlay with our neighbors through property taxes and other general City funding.
Ultimately, 273 properties shouldn’t have to fund over $850,000 of regular street maintenance work on their own. Let’s change that.