Where is the outrage over St. Paul’s double-digit property tax hike?

Residents in St. Paul will face a 14.65 percent property tax hike come 2023.

Things could have been worse, however, at least according to the City Council. Initially, the Mayor of St. Paul had proposed a budget with a 15.34 percent tax hike. But after residents raised concerns, the city council “trimmed” the budget by about $1.1 million, bringing the tax hike to the slightly lower rate of 14.65 percent.

Not that the City Council is reducing spending in any way. St. Paul officials merely found some way to cover the hole left by the less-than-planned tax hike.

On Wednesday, a day after an occassionally raucous Truth in Taxation hearing drew vocal homeowners concerned about their property taxes, the St. Paul council approved last-minute trims and tweaks to Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposed 2023 city budget, slimming the unusually high property tax levy by more than $1.1 million by dipping into larger than expected sales tax revenues, among other sources.

St. Paul’s Budget, however, is over $800 million. So $1.1 million is not even half a percent of the total budget. Not only are St. Paul officials not trimming their budget, but they are also claiming to have made big changes, which is not the case. Their budget is just as large as it was four months ago when the Mayor proposed it. The only difference is that instead of using property tax hikes, they are using sales tax revenues, among other sources.

Voters should be more outraged

In November 2021, St. Paul residents voted to limit landlords from raising rents by more than 3 percent — albeit with some exceptions. Yet the very same residents have only little qualms about their city council raising property taxes by a double-digit percentage to fund extravagant government spending.

To be fair to the St. Paul City council, half of this rise is due to a court mandate that eliminated maintenance fees, forcing the city to substitute those fees for property taxes. But that still means that even without that, taxes would have gone up by at least 7 percent — still more than 2 times the rate that landlords can charge their rents. And with tax-exempt entities no longer contributing to street maintenance, it means that St. Paul homeowners are carrying the entire maintenance spending on top of the other structural tax hike, and will probably also be on the hook for all future street maintenance spending.

Maybe instead of passing laws to prevent landlords from “exploiting” renters, St. Paul residents should be more concerned about their local government unnecessarily taking more of their hard-earned money.