Minnesota Landowners Looking To Overturn Street Repair Assessment

The owners of seven St. Paul buildings are challenging assessments for seal coating and mill-and-overlay work in 2019 and 2020 because they say that such services benefit the entire city, so property owners should not have to pay these fees, which are at least partly funded by street abutment charges based on how much their land borders the street.

The challenge to the law has been filed by two lawyers, which echoes a previous case against St. Paul that was taken up in 2016 at the Minnesota Supreme Court.

After the 2016 ruling, the St. Paul City Council hastily scrambled to find a way around the assessment ruling to fund street maintenance but found themselves at odds with their constituents when they ultimately opted for an unpopular 20% property tax increase.

Under state law, municipalities can charge assessments to fund public improvements if the assessed property owners get a special benefit. That benefit – measured by how much the property value increases- must be equal or greater than the charged fee. The Ramsey County Assessor’s Office does not recognize an increase in value associated with the work covered by the fees charged.

The city started paying for half of all mill and overlay work costs, seal coating projects, street sweeping services, and traffic signage when it switched from using fees to cover these expenses with its general fund. The current lawsuit charges that these reduced fees are still against Minnesota state law and a violation of the 2016 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling. The case is pending.

Thank you to Yahoo News and The Star Tribune for the initial report.