It is my profound honor to serve on the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners representing District 3, which includes much of the Midway and Como. This has been a challenging few years for local governments across the country and especially in Minnesota, as we struggle through simultaneous emergencies of global pandemic, institutional racism, and civil unrest. Our proposed 2022 budget for Ramsey County takes on these issues head-on, and I couldn’t be prouder of the work that we are doing.
Headlining this year’s budget is a conservative 1.5% increase to the property tax levy, coming on the heels of our 0% levy increase last year. As personnel costs and materials continue to rise above inflation, we have had to make tough choices about our programs and projects to ensure that we can deliver the services that our residents and businesses depend on. This budget includes investments in areas that I have heard from District 3 residents are top priorities, and which I hope we can make further investments in for years to come.
First, the budget includes a historic investment into housing and economic development through Ramsey County’s first-ever HRA levy, which will generate $11 million annually to fund new and preserved deeply affordable housing for our most vulnerable residents. While Saint Paul residents have funded the city’s HRA levy for decades, this levy allows us to spread the cost onto suburban Ramsey County communities, which have historically not levied their residents to fund affordable housing. We are also seeding this program with $27 million of federal American Rescue Plan funding over the next two years, which will generate big investments in our neighborhoods and communities.
Second, we are beginning to think more deeply about climate and environmental mitigation and Ramsey County’s role in decarbonizing our economy. While we have made big strides in reducing the footprint of our own buildings and programs, we know that there is far more that needs to be done to meet our climate goals. This has been identified as a top priority for the next few years and I am excited to work with the community to identify strategies moving forward.
Third, racial and health equity has been a top priority at Ramsey County for years, and we are beginning to see the results of those efforts in our community. County Attorney John Choi’s recent announcement that his office will decline to prosecute pretextual traffic stops is just one result of our Transforming Systems Together initiative, which brings together a group of community leaders and experts to identify where Ramsey County’s criminal justice system has caused harm to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and to undo those systems while maintaining community safety.
Since our youth prison Boys Totem Town shut down and offenders were redirected to programs in community, both overall youth crime rates and rates of recidivism have declined significantly. We will be watching those numbers closely over the next few years to identify lessons learned.
Fourth, this budget continues investments into a balanced public safety system that includes both traditional licensed peace officers and innovative new programs. Although the tight budgets of the last few years have required most of our departments to make painful cuts, we made the decision to hold the Sheriff’s Office harmless and maintain their pre-pandemic staffing and programs. We have also targeted funds into initiatives like mental health co-responders who work with our suburban police departments to deescalate situations and get community members the help they need, and the Healing Streets Initiative, which takes a Public Health approach to ending the cycles of violence that continue to traumatize our community.
Finally, we continue to invest in multimodal transportation improvements to make it easy and safe for people to walk, bike, roll, and take transit around Ramsey County in addition to maintaining accessibility for people driving. The METRO Gold Line, which will provide all-day frequent service between downtown Saint Paul and Woodbury along Interstate 94, remains on track for construction to begin in 2022.
The METRO Purple Line, formerly known as the Rush Line, will take riders from downtown all the way up to downtown White Bear Lake, and should open in 2026. The Riverview Corridor, still in development, will connect downtown to the Airport and Mall of America via West 7th St. In addition to these, I helped secure two new Arterial BRT projects like the A Line for District 3: the Rice-Robert line, which will run from Little Canada down to West St. Paul as the METRO G Line, and the Como-Maryland line, running from downtown Minneapolis to the Sun Ray Transit Center via Como, Maryland, and White Bear Aves.
Serving my community as your commissioner has been the honor of my life, and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish together over the next few years. If you have any questions or need assistance with county services or programs, please reach out to my office via email (Trista.MatasCastillo@co.ramsey.mn.us) or phone (651-266-8360).
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here