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City council will set 2011 budget priorities Monday

And so, it begins. Another season of number crunching, prioritizing and making difficult decisions.

Next Monday, the Farmington City Council will start on its biggest task of every year - building a budget for the next year.

In preparation for the first 2011 budget workshop, council members have been asked to gather for a May 10 workshop to draw up a list of concerns. By the end of the workshop, city administrator Peter Herlofsky hopes to have a consensus of what items city staff has to address as they move forward in developing a proposed 2011 budget.

There are a few constraints council members will have to work within. There are a few needs already in place. The city needs to pay for ice arena improvements and they need to pay for reconstruction on Walnut Street. Both of those projects are currently under construction. There are contracts for services and employee benefit increases that have to be figured in. The city needs an additional police vehicle.

Herlofsky points out there are a couple other concerns to keep in mind, as well. For instance, the city's 2009 and 2010 budgets did not levy enough to pay back debt payments. The ice arena, senior center and 2006A debt service funds have negative cash balances, meaning the debt service fund needs to be brought up by $84,404 to bring that balance back into the black.

On top of that, Herlofsky reports an inadequate cash flow for operations.

Initial goals, at least from the city staff, are simple. Maintain service levels. Maintain staff levels. And don't increase nonpersonnel costs.

But those are initial staff objectives. Those aren't necessarily the objectives of the Farmington City Council.

During a brief discussion at this week's regular meeting, Herlofsky asked council members to take time to identify their own objectives prior to next week's workshop. From those lists, he hopes to find a combined set of objectives to guide city staff through the initial budget process.

"We're not going to do a lot from a staff perspective," he told council members. "We want to hear what the council wants first."

Directors from each of the city's departments will be asked to sit in on the workshop, as well. Each will be asked to talk a little bit about his or her department, identify what some of the needs are and explain what is necessary to maintain day-to-day operations. They will also be asked to talk a little bit about how the 2010 budget allocations have or have not worked for their departments.

The budget workshop will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 10. It is open to the public, though council members said they would prefer to keep conversation between themselves, department heads and Herlofsky.

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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