Property tax relief, more affordable housing also being sought.

A new Mississippi Riverfront park, various street improvement projects, property tax relief and a stepped-up COVID-19 response are among the requests that Ramsey County will be making to the Minnesota Legislature during the 2022 session that opened on January 31.

The county has three bonding requests and is supporting two others. Topping the list is $26 million for Rivers­Edge, a proposed mixed-use development on the site of the former county jail and government center on Kellogg Boulevard in downtown Saint Paul. The money would be used for the acquisition, design, furnishing and construction of a gathering and events space that would also provide public access to the Mississippi River from the bluff.

A second bonding request is for $3.9 million for the revitalization of Rice Street between Wheelock Parkway and County Road B. The state funds would offset $7.8 million in construction costs currently planned by the county and the city of Saint Paul. A third request is for $3.5 million to extend the Bruce Vento Trail.

Ramsey County is supporting a plan to change the state’s annual property tax refund to a property tax credit that is automatically calculated and issued to qualifying homeowners on their property tax statements. The state currently requires homeowners to apply for the property tax refund.

The county is supporting the Ramsey County Historical Society’s request for $7.63 million in bonds for a Gibbs Farm Pathways to Dakota & Pioneer Life project, as well as the city of Saint Paul’s request for $26 million in bonds to rebuild the bridge near RiverCentre that supports the eastbound lanes of Kellogg Boulevard.

The county is also seeking state funding for ongoing planning of the proposed Riverview Corridor streetcar line between downtown Saint Paul and the Mall of America in Bloomington and the proposed Rondo land bridge over I-94 between Lexington Parkway and Dale Street. The Riverview streetcar was the focus of a $2.5 million request in 2021. That request is technically still on the table, according to Molly O’Rourke, Ramsey County’s director of intergovernmental relations.

Ramsey County is also supporting a plan to change the state’s annual property tax refund to a property tax credit that is automatically calculated and issued to qualifying homeowners on their property tax statements. The state currently requires homeowners to apply for the property tax refund, and as many as a third of eligible homeowners fail to apply for the money, according to county and state officials.

 

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More funds for COVID reduction, affordable housing, mental health services

Ramsey County is also supporting additional state funding to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and address the fallout from the pandemic. This would include building and maintaining the workforce, community education and outreach programs, COVID testing, case investigation and contact tracing, the delivery of essential services, and the distribution of vaccines with a specific focus on young adults, children and underserved communities.

The county is calling for additional state investments in affordable housing and programs that address homelessness. It is also behind an array of efforts to change the delivery of mental and behavioral health services. That includes legislation to embed social workers in schools to help assess the need for mental health services and provide support for families so affected. 

— Jane McClure

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