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City budget is set for now

The last of the city of Farmington's 2009 budget adjustments have been made, but city council members are certainly not celebrating their achievements.

City council member Christy Jo Fogarty expressed her displeasure before casting her vote in support of the last round of adjustments during Monday's regular council meeting. Fogarty approved the final $75,000 in changes, but scolded the council for failing to find any long-term adjustments to meet another projected deficit in the 2010 budget.

The 2009 budget deficit was created when Gov. Tim Pawlenty eliminated $350,000 in Market Value Homestead Credit -- a form of state aid -- from Farmington's budget in order to help address state budget shortfalls. Another $350,000 in the same state aid is expected to be cut from the 2010 budget.

In previous meetings, the city found approximately $276,600 in adjustments to the current year's budget. After a March 9 workshop, all that was left was to find a final $75,000 in adjustments.

It turns out, some of the final budget adjustment money has been in the city's coffers for the past couple of years. By increasing in the budget the amount received from the three townships -- Empire, Eureka and Castle Rock -- for fire contract services to more accurately reflect what the city receives, $50,000 was added in to the city's 2009 revenues.

The townships pay the city of Farmington for each fire call the Farmington Fire Department responds to. According to finance director Robin Roland, the amount received over the past couple of years has exceeded the amount that was budgeted. In 2008, that difference was about $50,000, which was noted by the city's auditors during the city's most recent audit. Looking at the 2009 budget, that estimate was again low, so Roland changed that particular item to reflect what the city can actually expect this year.

"What it does, it cuts the margin of error, so to speak," Roland said. "This additional revenue is a fact, not a supposition."

Another $25,000 in cuts were identified by simply decreasing the training budget to eliminate out-of-state travel expenses in 2009.

Council member Terry Donnelly noted the latest change will help to balance the budget. They will not add any burden to taxpayers. But, he added, the cuts made so far only address 2009's woes. All the same, he made the motion to approve the latest adjustments. Mayor Todd Larson seconded the motion.

When it came her time to vote, Fogarty said she was going to vote in favor of the adjustment, but not without first saying what was on her mind.

"I am going to say yes, but I am going to make sure people understand there has to be a fix," she said. "I am very unhappy that this council was unable to make any kind of effective decision that will affect the 2010 budget. There are no permanent cuts. There are no permanent fixes."

However, she added, if the measure did not pass, the council would spend more time working on the 2009 budget, and it needs, instead, to start looking at the 2010 budget.

The final adjustment passed on a 3-2 vote, with council members Julie May and Steve Wilson casting the dissenting votes.