homepage logo

County EDA on ‘what-if’ cut list

By Staff | Sep 7, 2009

Bill Groskreutz

In economic times like these it’s a good bet “wish lists” are no longer part of the budgeting process.

Instead, Faribault County commissioners may rely on “what-if lists” — areas where cutbacks could be made — as work on the 2010 budget progresses.

Some departments that could be trimmed because services they provide are not mandated by the state include: historical society; fair; tourism; parks; transportation; Minnesota Valley Action Council; and Soil and Water.

“None of this is on the table. It’s just there for discussion. These are things we do for ourselves and the people of Faribault County to make it a better place to live,” says Commissioner Tom Warmka.

Board chairman Tom Loveall says any budget cuts that are made should be based on priorities.

Tom Warmka

“Either you are going to raise taxes or you are going to cut spending,” he says. “To me, I’m looking at what could be run better or more effectively.”

At what level to continue funding for the county’s Economic Development Authority drew the most discussion.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz says he’s against any talk of eliminating the EDA director’s position. He asked the commissioners if that was their intention, why were people from Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin interviewed for the job three months ago?

“I find it very difficult to discontinue support of EDA when you have a new employee hired. I have moral feelings that is not a good way to operate,” he says.

Warmka says his proposal to cut the EDA was just a “what-if” suggestion. He says when the development group began interviews to hire someone he was surprised it was for a director and not someone to just handle their loans.

“It needs to be discussed quietly and calmly. There are going to be a lot of touchy feelings as this goes on,” Warmka says.

Loveall says he has concerns the direction the EDA is heading and wonders how effective it has been.

Groskreutz disagreed with Loveall, saying it’s difficult to measure results obtained from spending money on economic development.

Commissioner John Roper says cuts could be made in EDA’s budget, but he’s opposed to cutting all funding.

County Auditor John Thompson says a preliminary budget and levy must be approved by Sept. 15.

Thompson is waiting for Human Services to submit figures of health insurance increases that could be as much as $100,000. That would put the proposed levy at 4.9 percent.

Under state law, counties are limited to raising property taxes by less than 1 percent.

“Human Services scares me more than anything. That is one area (health insurance) we can’t control,” says Thompson. “This year it appears it will work out OK. This ($100,000 increase) is not a one-time shot. It’s for every year now.”

Thompson says he might have to go back and ask department heads to make more cuts in non-payroll items.