Making budget in a recession. Ideas from small town Minnesota

We’ve focused a lot at MinnEcon on the struggles of individual Minnesotans. But how are small towns coping? In this and future posts, we’ll look at some novel ways town halls are making budget.

First to Baudette, population about 1,000, on the Canadian border, just south of Lake of the Woods. Like many cities, it’s dealing with cuts to its state aid for 2009 and 2010. But town officials are finding a new campground is generating some revenue and keeping tourist dollars in town.

The campground is the newest piece of Timber Mill Park, a project begun a few years ago in better economic times. It includes RV hookups, space for primitive camping and a new shower/bathroom building.

We noted in a recent post on Minnesota’s summer tourism season that campgrounds did well this season compared to big resorts and hotels. That was Baudette’s experience this summer.

“We’ve had a pretty good response to it,” said Baudette administrator Tina Rennemo. In Lake of the Woods County, you’d think there’d be campgrounds all over. But no.”

Opened this summer in time for the Fouth of July, the campground’s brought in about $4,500 from the sites currently open. Baudette hopes for another boost with its Oktoberfest celebration this weekend.

“The fact that it’s gone over so well…it’s going to help fill some of the (budget) cracks,” said Rennemo. “The campground revenue, she says, will go back into the city’s park system and “allows us to keep up that service without raising taxes…”

The town spent about $140,00 on the shower/bathroom facility (“We didn’t skimp,” Rennemo noted) and the county helped rough in the roads, she added. While those plans were laid in better economic times, the town sees the campground as a long-term economic development tool.

“if we can keep people in town,” versus out at the lake, Rennemo said, “all that revenue stays in town.”

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Know a small town doing something novel to raise revenues and make budget? Drop me a line or post below.

NOTE: These won’t be posts debating taxes. I’m interested in hearing and writing about stuff small town governments are doing to raise money in non-traditional ways.

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