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Council demands cut to management staff

The message from the Farmington City Council to city administrator Peter Herlofsky is perfectly clear -- one of the city's management staff has to go.

After another two-hour budget workshop Monday, council members agreed to most of the recommended budget adjustments brought to them, with the exception of one. They agreed to a projection of $340,000 in building permit revenues for 2011. They agreed to an estimated $200,000 in contingency interest revenue.

They were even okay with the police sergeants' agreement to reduce their pay increase from 3.5 percent in 2010 to 1.75 percent in 2011 and save another $35,000 -- with the stipulation the sergeants will see a 1.75 percent pay increase in 2012 and 2013.

What they opposed was a proposal for three employees to reduce their hours, which would have resulted in a savings of $79,500. That proposal, they said, offered no long term solution.

Except for council member Terry Donnelly, the majority of the council reiterated their desire to see a management position eliminated. Though the $79,500 reduction of staff time and the savings from the police sergeants' contract would have netted well over $100,000, the solution was not what they were looking for, and they made that well known to Herlofsky.

"I don't think Peter wants to work with us," council member Steve Wilson said. "This tells me he thinks we're a nuisance."

They acknowledged that the combined solution offered by Herlofsky and staff would have achieved their financial goal. Council member Christy Jo Fogarty said she wrestled with the matter all weekend long. On one hand, the proposal would get the budget to where council members would like it to be for 2011; on the other, the plan specifically went against council's wishes.

Fogarty recognized that the three staff members who were willing to give up hours were doing so for the good of the organization and that the recommendation brought forward was an attempt to save someone's job at city hall. Ignoring those considerations, she said, could result in a lower employee morale in the building.

But she heard the frustrations of her colleagues and eventually agreed with the demand to eliminate a management position.

Donnelly was the only member to voice a differing opinion. The plan, he said, achieved council members' goal of finding $425,000 in deductions to the amount that was approved in the preliminary budget and levy in September.

"This recommendation doesn't change the taxes people pay, but it will hurt the morale of the city employees, because they came up with a plan collectively," he said.

Donnelly pointed out that the council has given several different directions on the budget over the past few months.

"We've sent mixed messages. Who, how many should go. These people are all here for a reason, and they're all necessary," he said.

In addition to the management staff position elimination, three other positions have been trimmed from the budget.

All but two of the city's department directors were in attendance at the workshop.

The city of Farmington has until Dec. 15 to ratify its final budget and tax levy for 2011. That means the management staff elimination will have to come to council in early December.

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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