The City is holding a public forum on the budget at 7 pm on Monday, August 23 in the City Council chambers. From the announcement for the forum:
The City has experienced significant reductions in state aid and the Mayor and Council have set a goal of achieving a balanced budget without any state aid by the year 2015. This represents a decrease of just over $2 million dollars over the next four years or 20% of the General Fund budget, $500,000 in 2011…Given the size of the reduction, all services will be affected to some extent. The Mayor and Council want to know not only what services are important to you, but also what level of service is acceptable. Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to maintain service levels? Would you be willing to pay additional fees and charges? Are you willing to accept reductions in hours of service at City facilities or longer response times?
True enough, but there are a few more questions you might consider:
- The Council has also been planning major facilities projects: police/fire and library expansion, how much are you willing to pay towards completing those projects (where “pay” means either higher taxes or more limited services)?
- What are the Council’s priorities and desired outcomes? Is the goal just to cut dollars or are there some goals the city is trying to accomplish? Another way, how do the budget cuts serve the Comprehensive Plan or the Council goals?
- Are these short term cuts which the Council believes will be restored sometime in the not too distant future, or is this “the new normal”? – if the latter, how does the Council proposed restructuring government to deliver the services we identify as most important?
- Prior Councils have balanced budgets by deferring long term maintenance, facilities replacement and infrastructure projects. Now the city has failing facilities, rough roads and no money. What should the city do to address immediate needs but also plan for maintaining what it has in a sustainable way?
- Ask the Council whether they prefer to set the preliminary tax level as high as possible (we must set the preliminary tax levy by September 15 by state law) and then try to whittle that amount down before setting the final tax levy in December? Or would you prefer the Council set the preliminary “not to exceed” levy lower and be forced to find ways to reduce spending? (I’m for setting it lower – I don’t think we should ask for more than we need and “need” becomes more flexible when the preliminary levy is set higher).
And, of course, bring your own comments and questions or just come and listen.
Here’s some information (much has been published in staff reports for Council meetings, etc., this is an incomplete list of major information):
- City’s budget and finance report page
- Northfield personnel costs (salary + benefits)
- League of MN Cities report on rethinking city services
- League of MN Cities spreadsheet on LGA cuts
Need more info? Ask for it by posting a comment and I’ll try and provide it.