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Will BE pool, police, library, face budget ax?

By Staff | Mar 29, 2010

Rick Scholtes

While the full Blue Earth City Council continues to hold weekly work sessions to search for places to trim its current budget, one councilman has found some ways to creatively make cuts without much pain.

Councilman Rick Scholtes has studied not just this current 2010 budget, but also the ones from the previous three years.

At Monday’s work session, he suggested a way to cut $32,000 without much effect on city services.

Scholtes pointed out that the expenses for the city pool have consistently come in $12,000 under budget in the last three years.

“If we bring this current budget into line with a three year average, we will have trimmed $12,000,” he told his fellow council members.

Councilman Glenn Gaylord had already voiced an opinion that he did not favor cutting hours at the pool.

“We just built a brand new pool and it just doesn’t make any sense to shorten hours,” he says.

Other council members had already reached that same conclusion. However, they were still considering closing the pool for the season at an earlier date than previous years.

Scholtes also proposed the same creative budget realignment for the police department.

“If we reduce each item to the average of the past three years, we will effectively trim $20,000 from the current budget,” he told the council.

The total police budget stands at $531,624 for 2010.

Councilman John Huisman askedPolice Chief Dean Vereide where 10 percent could be trimmed from the police budget, if the council were to decide to reduce every department’s budget by that amount.

Vereide told the council they have already trimmed a lot from his budget with the decision not to hire another officer, and there isn’t much more room to cut.

The Senior Citizens Center and City Library were the other two departments looked over by the council at Monday’s work session.

The one item in the Senior Center budget which was noted as a possible cut was $7,500 for new flooring.

Director Middy Thomas agreed that item could be postponed for a year, if necessary.

She also pointed out that the current remodeling in the center is being funded totally by donations.

“We serve about 1,000 people each month,” she says. “We also rent the center out for private meetings and parties each month.”

Blue Earth City Library Director Eva Gaydon told the council she was not comfortable cutting the number of staff persons she has, but did agree it might be possible to cut library hours.

One suggestion was to cut back on Saturday, from the current 10 a.m.-3 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The council also looked at the possibility of cutting back on the current $20,000 allocated for material purchases.

The library budget is at $197,343 for the current year.

Gaydon told the council the library has 2,098 active users, and had 38,781 total circulation of materials last year. About 30,000 of that was printed material.

The library also had 13,000 people sign in to use the computers.

The council is holding a series of weekly meetings to look at the budget line by line to see where they can trim $235,000 – the amount Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said Blue Earth will lose in local government aid.

Mayor Rob Hammond told the rest of the council on Monday that it appears the legislature could override Pawlenty’s plan and reduce the amount by a third.

“But, don’t start celebrating yet,” he said. “And don’t hold your breath.”

The council will look at the City Hall and fire department budgets this Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.