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John Nephew

Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Property Tax Levies

In the campaign piece mailed on his behalf by Highland Sanitation, Bob Cardinal claims to be a "fiscal conservative." I thought it would be interesting to compare that claim to what happened to the city tax levy when he was mayor.

Since Cardinal took office in late 1999 and he was replaced at the start of 2006, that means he was Mayor when the levy was set for the years of 2000 through 2006 (since of course the 2006 levy was finalized in December 2005). For 2012, I'm using the maximum levy that we approved in September; the final levy we set in December could be lower.

Here's what the levies were, and the percentage change each year over the previous year:

Year Levy Increase
1999 $8,986,925 -0.01%
2000 $9,167,607 2.01%
2001 $9,842,953 7.37%
2002 $10,238,175 4.02%
2003 $11,855,546 15.80%
2004 $12,679,422 6.95%
2005 $13,434,640 5.96%
2006 $14,106,370 5.00%
2007 $15,546,450 10.21%
2008 $15,546,450 0.00%
2009 $15,876,235 2.12%
2010 $16,670,046 5.00%
2011 $17,503,454 5.00%
2012 $17,853,523 2.00%

I've highlighted the years when Cardinal was mayor in red, and the years that I've been on the council in blue. (In between were the two budgets that Rebecca Cave voted for.) A person could reasonably debate whether we should attach 2000 to Cardinal's record, since the budget should have been nearly set at the time he took office. Depending on if you include 2000, the average tax levy increase during Cardinal's leadership was either 6.7% or 7.5% per year – about twice as large as the 3.5% average increase during my time in office.

Here's a graph to visualize the percentage increases each year (again, with red for Cardinal's tenure and blue for mine):

Whether or not Cardinal voted for one levy or another, he was Mayor across that period of massive increases. Perhaps he didn't like one or more of them, but then where was his leadership on the City Council? Would he have the political skill to influence the direction of the council in the future, or would he just serve as an ineffectual “contrasting view” to reflexively vote against everything?

I've worked hard to play a leading part in each levy and budget, though I haven't gotten everything I wanted. I haven't merely voted aye or nay, but actively shaped what was in each levy and budget passed in my term – and I think that's what citizens should expect of any elected representative. With that in mind, I think it's fair to compare my record of fiscal responsibility with what was done, with or without his participation, when Cardinal had a voice and a vote on the council.

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