We attended the St Paul Strong Forum on Wednesday at the St Paul Neighborhood Network. All 6 declared candidates were in attendance: Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao (DFL), Tim Holden (R), former Ward 3 City Council Member Pat Harris (DFL), former School Board Member Tom Goldstein (DFL), Elizabeth Dickinson (Gr), and former Ward 1 City Council Member Melvin Carter III.
The debate was lively and there wasn’t much interaction between candidates, and the breadth of the issues covered was limited, mainly due to the number of the people on the stage. When each person was limited to a 90-second response it required nearly 9 minutes for each question to be fully answered and depending on the length of the question sometimes even longer.
The most interesting idea we heard from the debate which was support for PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) supported by Carter, Dickinson, and Goldstein. Each supporter called it PILOT, but we have learned the correct term used in the legislative tax committees is PILT. This means a voluntary annual payment of the amount a normal tax assessment an entity would receive from the city. St Paul is a community that is property tax poor when all the non-tax paying entities are adequately assessed.
The State of Minnesota, which dispenses Local Government Aid (LGA) is a prime factor. The number of state buildings sit off of the property tax rolls are staggering, including the State Capitol itself. Not to mention, the State Senate Office Building, the State Office Building, the State Supreme Court Building, the Administration Building and so on.
If the City of St Paul were to place a price tag on the lost revenue for each entity its budget would likely have a multi-fold surplus. Especially, if PILT were extended to schools both public and private, higher education institutions, and churches.
Since everyone who lives and works in the city directly receives amenities it about time the benefactors start acknowledging the benefit financially.