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With state aid, little left to cut

On Monday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced a supplemental budget recommendation that includes more cuts to state funding for Minnesota cities. On Tuesday, city administrator Peter Herlofsky said those cuts won't be quite so deep in Farmington.

"They've already taken away everything from us," he said.

Herlofsky is talking about years of budget trimming, both voluntary and involuntary, the city of Farmington has done. It started back in 2006 when Local Government Aid was phased out for Farmington. Then came cuts to the market value homestead credit in late 2008, 2009 and now, in 2010. According to numbers from the Minnesota Department of Revenue, Farmington has no LGA or MVHC left after 2010.

"They've done the damage here. The only way they could hurt us is to ask for a contribution. If they leave us alone, we will be okay," he said.

The city has had to do some creative budgeting to maintain services and keep taxes at a stable level in the past few years. A common suggestion for trimming spending is to cut jobs, but that can only go so far, Herlofsky said. The city started laying off staff in 2006. Since then, seven or eight positions have been cut.

"When you're looking at a staff of about 80 full-time employees, that means you're cutting staff by about 10 percent," Herlofsky said.

That gets a little tricky when it comes to maintaining the level of service residents are used to. Cuts to jobs mean more work is being done by fewer people. That might work in communities that have reached the peak of growth, but it does not work as well for cities like Farmington, where growth is still coming.

"When they take (aid) away, they kind of pull the rug out from under a growing community like Farmington," he said.

Still, the city is pretty solid in its financial position so far this year, all things considered. Preemptive strikes like last year's employee furlough helped to balance the 2009 budget, and helped boost the city's fund balance back to its $2 million mark -- it had been below that for a couple of years.

Within a month or so, Farmington will have a new finance director to oversee the city's budget. That position has been vacant since Robin Roland left her position in November.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  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 American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also 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. 

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