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City budgets, levies cause big headaches for local councils

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

Most cities in the area are beginning their budget-creation process for 2010. That includes coming up with a property tax levy amount for next year.

Cities have the same problem as schools, counties, businesses and ordinary citizens. How do we do more with less?

They are dealing with fewer funds due to the now infamous cuts in local government aid from the state, caused by the state having fewer funds to disperse. And unlike the federal government, the state has to balance their budget. They can’t go into deficit financing, or print more money, like the feds do.

Many areas in the state budget were cut, and the governor unalotted aid to the cities, meaning he cut the funds the state was supposed to be dispersing.

It has caused a lot of problems locally and will continue to do so, it seems.

One avenue open to cash-strapped cities is to increase local property taxes, never a pleasant task.

In Winnebago, for instance, their preliminary budget shows an increase in the levy of over $75,000, which translates into a levy increase of over 18 percent. We stress that this is a preliminary budget and levy amount, and Winnebago may not pass a final version this high.

In Blue Earth the council also has discussed a possible increase in the local levy.

Blue Earth faces a state-mandated levy increase limit, but they can increase the levy for new debt service or to recoup the amount of state funds which were lost due to unallotment. Like Winnebago, they could increase the levy close to a 20 percent increase, but that doesn’t mean they will.

Some council members have already expressed a desire to keep the levy increase lower than what is the maximum amount they are allowed.

The problem, of course, is that the council wants to do some improvements to the city. They also want to try and keep the status quo, not cutting programs, services or staff.

That is called doing more, with less. Not an easy task.

Some projects at Putnam Park keep getting brought up, and a committee of the city is working on several proposals. Those include a new picnic shelter and basketball court.

Also on the list are pool projects, including displaying the donor bricks which have the names of persons and businesses who donated money for the new pool. The committee also wants to build an area for the bronze statue of a little girl, which was temporarily removed when the new pool was built. It, along with all the donor bricks, are in storage.

All of these projects take money, of course, something hard to come by in these times of budget cuts.

It is going to be interesting to see what the area city councils come up with, as far as what can fit into limited budgets. It will also be interesting to see what the final levy increases will be. Will they be at the more reasonable three percent range, or will they opt for the more aggressive double digit increase.

Stay tuned, we will let you know.

As if all this budget stuff isn’t enough of a headache, the Blue Earth council faces another problem.

It seems there is a coyote on the loose in town, and some citizens want it removed.

The coyote has been spotted on the southwest corner of the city several times.

One resident in the area was at a council meeting, asking what could be done about it. The only advice from the city was to keep small pets, children and adults indoors at night, when the coyote is on the prowl. They also thought the residents should be made aware that the animal has been seen in town.

Shooting it was not an option, the council said.

The resident said she had access to a large animal live-trap, and asked if she could use it. The council gave her the go-ahead, but they questioned if it was actually possible to trap a coyote.

As I recall, the coyote was always getting caught in his own traps which he set to capture the speedy roadrunner.

Hopefully, the live trap being used didn’t come from the Acme Supply Company. It could malfunction, if it did.