Northfield joins the club, plans cuts for 2011

They’re looking at cuts to do it, but Northfield is another city that has decided local government aid from the state will eventually go away and the time to plan for that is now.

Monday night the Northfield city council presented ideas to the public on how to make cuts in every department in 2011. They ranged from one-time cuts, like not purchasing three police squad cars, to reducing staff in nearly every department.

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The immediate problem for the city is dealing with less revenue, thanks to less homestead credit reimbursement from the state of Minnesota to the tune of $288,000 and an anticipated drop in local government aid. The city expects to receive a total $2.3 million in LGA through the end of 2010 and was certified by the state to receive $3 million next year. But it is but is counting on only $1.8 million of that.

Mayor Mary Rossing outlined the charge to the city administration this way:

The challenge we have given the staff and ourselves is to decrease or make up the difference in the budget by $500,000 each year for the next four years. Now if it so happens a governor gets in place who chooses not to unallot or doesn’t believe in balancing the state budget on the backs of local government, and we get all the state aid that’s promised us then we will be looking at a surplus. But I think that this council is committed to moving forward in that direction so we aren’t tied to the whimsical nature of the state.

Northfield’s budget projection for 2011 depends on property taxes continuing to rise, as they have done year over year since 2007. Property taxes make up the largest share of revenue.

Eleven people made suggestions to the council. They included subcontracting more city services, using fewer consultants and setting up a volunteer time bank. Less clear was what people consider core services. One said every service that citizens can’t see should be excluded as not a core service and perhaps not worthy of taxpayer support.

It was a conversation residents throughout the state are having about rethinking what cities can deliver, and Northfield’s city council continues work on the budget tonight.

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