Red Wing has residents’ input, now for the hard part

After surveying around 400 people by phone and collecting comments from the web and at the public library, Red Wing has confirmation that services like police, fire, library and parks are liked well enough to be maintained or improved. But paying for that maintenance is another question.

The effort to collect public opinion has been part of how Red Wing is facing the financial squeeze that is pinching cities across Minnesota.

Police protection is popular, as you might expect. About 78 percent wanted police service maintained or increased. But of those, 49 percent said they did not want their property taxes raised to pay for police; 38 percent said they did. The divide between wanting a service maintained and the desire to pay more property taxes for it was especially wide in street lighting: 66 percent said maintain the lighting, 62 percent of those didn’t way to pay more taxes.

The city’s incinerator operates at a loss of about a half a million dollars a year. And yet a majority of survey respondents said they are OK with taxes to support the burning of garbage.

Red Wing held two public hearings Aug. 28 and 30 to help city officials search for ideas. Only a handful of the public showed up. Disappointed council members and department heads blamed the good weather and perhaps even the good response from the survey for the very low turnout.

Or it may have been a measure of just how resigned people are to the size of the problem that dwarfs attempts to solve it. When Red Wing had to cut $2 million from its 2009 budget because of reductions in state aid, the four public hearings were full to overflowing according to council president Michael Schultz.

Tonight, facing budget pressure again, Red Wing’s city council is expected to present four recommendations for raising revenues. And there will be proposals to cut services as well. The meeting starts at 7:30p at City Hall.

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