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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Busy Summer and Budgets

I sure have dropped off in how much I've written in the blog lately. It's been a busy summer, but as I think about it, there has been no shortage of topics that I could have been writing about -- important council issues such as the Gethsemane Senior Housing project (which passed the council 5-0 for its approvals and also for its TIF application), the direction to staff to complete negotiations to buy the remaining 4 acres of Gethsemane Park (3-2 vote there), the dynamic sign ordinance, and the approval of the 2009-2013 capital improvement plan (we amended it to space out some road projects, in order to reduce the future impact of debt service on the city's tax levy; and passed the revised CIP 5-0 this past Thursday).

In meetings this week we received news on a couple of budget-related topics that I think are worth mentioning. One is that while residential property values in Maplewood declined by 6%, the commercial properties increased by 13%, and the net taxable value of the city in total did increase slightly. This is good news for homeowners, since it makes it less likely that one home will see both declining property value and rising taxes. It's not as good news for businesses, whose rising property values will mean that all else being equal, tax burden will shift from homes to commercial properties. Later in the budget process we'll get more detailed information on what this means (e.g., what a change of a given percent in the levy would mean for the median-value Maplewood home's city taxes).

Another important data point came in a side comment this week -- apparently we are anticipating an 18% rise in the cost of the city's health insurance. Let's be clear, this is a frightening number. However, earlier in the year we were told the increase could be over 40%. So while an 18% premium hike isn't much to celebrate in itself, it's a lot easier on the 2009 budget than a potential increase more than twice as high.


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