Deep cuts cause for deep concern to cities and counties


As Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes to reduce $250 million in state aid to cities and counties, local government representatives told the House Local Government Division they’re still reeling from the effects of 2010 unallotments plus the cumulative effects of prior years’ state aid cuts. They remain concerned about public safety and quality of life in their communities.

Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said the city rolled back its 2010 budget to 2007 spending levels; eliminated most of its “livability” initiatives such as arts funding and many “secondary” services, such as a recreational program at a nature center and a police school liaison; and eliminated about 10 percent of its workforce. The governor’s plan, said Hentges, would require Mankato to cut another $1.7 million, the equivalent of its snowplow, library and street lighting budget.

The timing of recent cuts can also wreak havoc on local budgets, according to Keith Carlson, executive director of the Minnesota Intercounty Associaton, because local governments operate on a calendar year, so unallotment decisions made late in the calendar year can’t be accommodated by local levy decisions, which might otherwise help compensate for state aid cuts.

Local governments are often exhorted to do “more with less,” said Carlson. “I’m here to tell you we’re doing less with less.”