St. Paul mayor wants public input on budget

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St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman on Wednesday introduced, during a special presentation before the City Council, his campaign of public engagement, education and participation for the development of the 2007 city budget.

The program’s main objective is to engage the citizens of St. Paul in the decision-making process and to teach them how the city budget process works. The program includes a Webpage from which it is possible to access several tools that users can manipulate to analyze different variables and use them to simulate a budget and use it to simulate the decision-making behind the process and learn how to balance the budget and the way each decision affects the different variables that compose it and the final impact in the services the city provides.

Mayor Coleman stated clearly that the city faces a budgetary crisis for 2007, partly due to the noticeable reduction of the contributions from the state to the cities and partly due to the short-term planning decisions of previous administrations that postponed the problem.

“We hope that our continuing efforts to engage in a conversation with the community will not only educate the public, but give them the opportunity to give us ideas how to close this budget gap for this year and into the future,” said Coleman.

The meeting, called by the mayor, began with a special presentation from Matt Smith, director of finances of the city, who spoke about the future of the budgetary challenges the city faces for the year 2007. Coleman’s chief of staff, Ann Mulholland, followed him and introduced the public engagement campaign and resident participation, which includes a series of open forums in which the citizens of St. Paul will be able to participate and express their ideas and opinions. This presentation included the official launching of the electronic portal to access the learning tools on the budgetary development of St. Paul.

Finally, Coleman took the microphone and responded to a series of questions posed by the assistants and members of the press. He explained that the city faces a $15 million deficit for 2007 and that the amount of money the city collects from property taxes is even a smaller amount than the amount collected in 1994. This reduction in the city’s income (by property taxes) has been inversely proportional to the tax burden and commitments of the city with other governmental organs and the reductions of contributions by the state, which has placed the city in a difficult situation.

“It is important that our residents know we are all in this together,” he said. “As we begin to reexamine our mission as a city, we need to hear from those we serve every day.”

Coleman will formallypresent the 2007 budget on August 2.

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