Monday, December 16, 2013
Who Will Pay the Bill for Street Repair?
In a citizen survey recently conducted by the City of Duluth, Duluthians overwhelmingly identified the poor condition of our city streets as a concern. Understandably, we also identified the subsequent need for street improvement as a priority.
In response to this feedback, the City established a Streets Working Group that has been meeting to address the problem and to provide possible solutions. The group includes City staff from: administration, engineering, streets maintenance and finance. It also includes City Councilors Larson, Julsrud and Krug.
Representatives from the Streets Working Group recently hosted three public meetings to share their proposed street improvement plan. Within these meetings, they outlining the goals and challenges of the plan, and discussed its possible funding sources.
Here is our shared challenge: only a few Duluthians attended the public meetings. The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce specifically promoted attendance for the final meeting, which was held December 2nd at Duluth City Hall. We heralded this meeting as business community members' last chance to have their voice heard regarding the street improvement plan. Our efforts generated the largest meeting attendance - 40 attendees.
Yet, this attendance was not a source of pride. It was a source for concern. There are 24,200 residential properties (homes and apartments) in our beloved city. There are also 3,815 commercial and industrial properties. If you own one of these 28,015 properties, you may soon be required to pay for the proposed street improvements. The increased expense will take the form of either an additional property tax or a street improvement fee. For the owner of a home valued at $149,000 (Duluth's average), the proposed property tax would increase by $5.02 per month. For a home valued at $200,000 the monthly increase would be $7.19.
Unfortunately, for owners of commercial or industrial property, the stakes are significantly higher. A large commercial or industrial property could see a monthly street improvement fee of $300. This is an additional annual operating expense of $3,600. The Chamber's leadership is concerned regarding what appears to be an inordinate financial burden being placed on commercial and industrial property owners.
Now that I have your attention, I encourage you to have your voice heard within this community discussion. You can read and download the proposed street improvement plan (Streets: Solving the Funding Puzzle) by visiting the City of Duluth's website. The Plan icon is presented on the website's cover page. You can provide the group your feedback at www.duluthmn.gov/streets.
The group will take our feedback into consideration prior to updating the plan. The update will be presented to the public in another series of public meetings. The plan will then be presented for approval to the Duluth City Council, maintaining a goal to have the plan in place by March 2014.
The City of Duluth's leadership had a responsibility to share their proposed plan with the community. They have done so. The plan is available to us. They have held community meetings and they will do so again when the plan is updated. It is now our responsibility to engage in the process. Let's read the plan. Let's provide your feedback. Let's have a voice in this discussion. If we don't, we will be largely defenseless when the taxman or taxwoman comes a-calling.
David Ross, President & CEO
posted by David Ross