Changes to the city’s customer service procedures is one likely focus.
Do you want to be a part of the conversation as Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and his staff draw up the city budget for 2023? The city’s Office of Financial Services is holding a series of virtual budget conversations that are open to the public. The hour-long sessions are scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 7; 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12; 9 a.m. Thursday, May 19; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 24; and 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 2. To register, visit stpaul.gov/budget-events.
Carter will present his proposed 2023 city budget to the City Council in August. The council will review the document and make any changes before the budget and property tax levy for 2023 are adopted in December.
One likely focus for the budget is on changes to the customer services provided by city departments and offices. In 2021 the City Council Audit Committee commissioned a study of the access and delivery of non-emergency services. The study, conducted by the consulting firm Cultivate Strategy, found that no two city departments or offices handle constituent services in the same way. It recommended the following changes:
- Maintaining the city’s five-person main call center, but moving it from the Department of Safety and Inspections to one of several other city departments or offices.
- Providing more mental health services and support for front-line staff. Call center workers said they felt overwhelmed and overworked. The center (651-266-8989) handles between 500 and 600 calls per day. That is more than 100 calls daily for each of its five staff members.
- Having city staff work across departments in a more collaborative manner.
- Strengthening the district council system to better assist citizens.
One perception that came out of the study is that lower-income residents, renters and people of color receive poorer service from the city. Another perception is that citizens have to know the right people to get an issue taken care of. A third perception is that it is difficult to get an issue taken care of outside of business hours.
City employees expressed concerns about how to best handle complaints that involve more than one city department, and how to follow up to ensure that a complaint is resolved.
Complaints were also made about the city’s recently redesigned website, which lacks staff phone directories, has broken links and outdated pages.
— Jane McClure
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