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City's budget cuts still up in the air

A decision about whether to cut one or two city staff positions will have to wait. Farmington City Council members need a little more time to weigh the pros and cons.

Up for discussion are two positions that would save the city close to $200,000 if they were both eliminated - the administrative services director post held by Lisa Shadick, and the economic development specialist position held by Tina Hansmeier.

Council members identified those two positions during a Sept. 27 workshop as ones that could be eliminated. At the same workshop, city administrator Peter Herlofsky urged council members to formalize their opinions on those two positions at this week's regular city council meeting.

However, when it came up during Monday's meeting, mayor Todd Larson - who had initially identified the administrative services director as one he would recommend be cut - instead suggested council spend a little more time discussing the pros and cons of eliminating either of the two positions identified.

In the regular city council agenda packet, Herlofsky had provided a detailed job description for both Hansmeier's and Shadick's positions. While the information there gave council members a better feel for what those employees' job descriptions included, a letter from the Farmington Business Association also gave them a feel for how local business owners felt about the proposal to cut Hansmeier's position.

"Losing focus on economic development places a major roadblock in the way of a mutually beneficial and healthy Economic Development track for the future of our own businesses, future business investment, and the city itself," the FBA's letter read.

While some council members said they simply needed more time to digest the information they had received or wanted to discuss the positions more, only Terry Donnelly said he was not comfortable telling Herlofsky which jobs should be cut from the city's staff. Since Herlofsky is responsible to answer for the day-to-day operations of the city, Donnelly felt the administrator would know better than council members when it came to which cuts would have the least impact.

"I'm very uncomfortable with just going through and picking a position and saying, 'Oh, we don't need that one' or 'we don't need that one,'" Donnelly said. "This whole thing has been very disconcerting to me."

In an effort to save jobs, Herlofsky previously provided council members with $400,000 in alternative, line item budget cuts. However, at those cuts would come at the expense of many programs offered by the city, as well as significant cuts to supplies and staff training. That's why council members selected two staff positions to cut. But those positions may not have been the ones Herlofsky himself would have selected. And if he had his way, Herlofsky said he would not necessarily cut any more positions.

"I wasn't given that much. It was, 'Peter, recommend these two,'" he said. "I don't want to argue with the council, but I have my own ethical standards to go with, too."

After about half an hour of discussion, council members chose to table the topic and come back to it during the Oct. 11 budget workshop. They also asked Herlofsky to have all of the department directors at that workshop so they could get a better feel for some of the line item cuts that were identified.

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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