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Still no answer on city's budget cuts

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Farmington City Council members did not make much progress Monday in figuring out where to trim more money from the city's final 2011 levy and budget, but for the most part, they apologized for pushing too hard.

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Nearing the end of a 2 1/2 hour workshop Monday, council member Christy Jo Fogarty opened the 2011 budget discussion portion of the agenda with an apology to city administrator Peter Herlofsky.

Council members had previously directed Herlofsky to trim $400,000 from the preliminary levy approved in September, which he did. In an effort to save as many staff positions as possible, Herlofsky looked to supplies and programs rather than people.

Dissatisfied with the options before them, council members set sights on eliminating one or two jobs.

Council members expressed frustrations at an Oct. 4 meeting over Herlofsky's hesitance to cut positions. But at that meeting council member Terry Donnelly argued that it was the city administrator's job to make personnel decisions.

"I'm very uncomfortable with just going through and picking a position and saying, 'we don't need that one' or 'we don't need that one,'" he said that night.

That seemed to have an impact on the rest of the council.

When Monday's discussion turned to the budget, Fogarty was the first to speak. She said council members seemed to be micromanaging city staff, and stepping into a role that was not theirs to be in.

"We asked (Peter) to cut $400,000 and he did. I think we went beyond our bounds and strength to identify positions," she said. "It was not correct for us to come down on him."

Other council members agreed. Mayor Todd Larson said his previous comments came from a frustration of feeling like Herlofsky was not doing what council asked, but still acknowledged council had overstepped its boundaries when they started naming specific positions.

"It was never our intent to sit and name specific positions," council member Julie May said.

However, in past budget workshops, council members - including May - named several positions to consider for elimination. The economic development specialist position has been on that list for several months. Other positions suggested in the past by council members included school resource officers, the K-9 unit, the assistant city planner and firefighters. The economic development specialist position is the only one to have come this far on the elimination list.

Council members will hold another budget workshop in November.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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