Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can you guess what they'll be talking about....?
City officials from throughout Minnesota will be joined by counterparts from counties, school boards, and townships on Thursday (March 25) in St. Paul for a joint legislative conference. It's a good bet that local government fiscal conditions will take center stage in discussions. Highlights include a legislative panel featuring remarks from Senate and House majority and minority party leaders, and a keynote address by David Parkhurst, Director and Legislative Counsel for the Economic Development and Commerce Committee of the National Governors Association. League of Minnesota Cities staffers will live-tweet from the Conference.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cities making tough budget choices while legislators propose more mandates
Last year, in the wake of financial woes caused to cities by unallotment of state aids, officials from the state legislative and executive branches asked city associations to submit a list of mandates that could be eliminated to help alleviate city budget struggles and promote collaborations with other local governments. The League of Minnesota Cities responded by submitting a 20-page list, and Minnesota cities were rewarded with...elimination of a single, minor mandate.

Fast forward to 2010--with cities again facing brutal cuts in the Governor's proposed budget, legislators have introduced at least three additional bills that would further strain city budgets through the imposition of unfunded mandates. Separate proposals that would expand employee sick leave, require cities to purchase clean products from a state-approved list, and require ice arena managers to install state-approved air monitoring devices certainly are all well-intentioned pieces of legislation. At a time when the state has responded to a budget crisis by slashing city aids and credits and threatening to cut more, though, the introduction of even more unfunded mandates adds even more pressure to city budgets. If state policymakers indeed plan to offer mandate relief to help offset cuts to state aid and credits, then expanding the mandate list is counter-productive, at best.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

So, what has City Hall done for me lately?
The Waseca County News has published a piece submitted by Waseca City Council member Les Tlougan that lists city service statistics in that city for 2009. Waseca's current population is approximately 9,800. All-in-all, the piece lists stats for the year related to public works, public safety, and general administration and finance. Some examples: 7,205 police calls; 363 building permits issued; 51,500 utility bills generated and mailed; and 500 fire hydrants flushed. Tlougan provides useful food-for-thought for residents of any city who want to know how city tax dollars are typically spent. He also emphatically notes that Waseca will have fewer dollars to deliver these services going forward--according to Tlougan, if Governor Pawlenty's most recent budget proposal is approved the City stands to lose 44.5 percent of its local government aid for 2010 and 2011.