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BREAKING NEWS

Money matters: Cuts and ‘stimulus’

By Staff | Feb 21, 2009

With the loss of state aid a certainty, Faribault County commissioners aren’t waiting to see how they’ll deal with less funding.

They have asked County Auditor John Thompson to work with department heads on what Commissioner Tom Loveall calls ‘a disaster plan,’ to identify potential budget cuts.

Commissioner Bill Grosk-reutz, like the other commissioners, says the board has to be more proactive in addressing funding shortfalls and how that will impact the budget.

“I don’t want to be seen in the public as the one that looks through the bills and says, ‘That’s one we aren’t going to pay,'” Groskreutz says.

With that said, the commissioners reviewed a list of bills to be paid and voted to defer a $3,500 payment to the Faribault County Historical Society.

The county has budgeted $14,000 for the group in the coming year.

Thompson says the county will lose an estimated $341,000 in state aid the next two years.

Groskreutz says he would like each department leader to trim their budget 5 to 10 percent.

Thompson says the cuts may have to be “from top down” because he isn’t getting much input.“I have yet to have a department head tell me, ‘We don’t need this person,'” says Thompson.

Loveall says the choice for boardmembers will be whether to raise the tax levy or impose spending cuts. He says he doesn’t want to micromanage departments, but a plan needs to be developed.

“I understand we’re not going to be able to walk away and say, ‘You guys can handle it,'” Loveall adds.

Commissioner Tom Warmka likened the budget woes facing local officials to a balloon, saying a reduction in one area may affect another department.

“It’s a tough thing to get your hands around. You squeeze it and it’s going to bulge out somewhere else,” says Warmka.

Before any cuts are made in services, Commissioner John Roper says he would like to have public input and study possible impacts.

Warmka says drastic changes will need to be made and it may involve cuts in services.

“It’s not going to be business as usual,” Warmka says.

Thompson hopes to have a list of proposed cuts by the commissioners first meeting in March.

In other financial news, the county will try to get a piece of the ‘stimulus package’ pie.

County assistant engineer Dave Hanson told commissioners a funding request for three projects has been submitted to the state. He says officials have reviewed the plan and some changes need to be made.

Minnesota is expected to receive $9.1 billion to rebuild schools, roads, bridges and health programs.

The county’s projects — overlaying eight miles of County Road 2, repairing a bridge one mile west of Elmore and the Sahr bridge — will cost between $1.7 million and $2 million.

The county road project was scheduled for last year, but had to be scrapped for lack of funding.

Commissioner Butch Erichsrud asked Hanson if more people would be hired for the projects because the ‘stimulus package’ is intended to put more people to work.

“No. We’ve actually had people leave. We’ve been doing more work with less people. We’re down to the bare bones with personnel right now,” says Hanson.