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City council is still looking for budget cuts

It's back to the drawing board once again for Farmington city staff.

Charged with finding $425,000 in budget reductions that will please the Farmington City Council, city staff now has two weeks before the next, and possibly last, workshop for the 2011 budget.

In that time, city staff must make sense of a new set of directives that came out of this week's budget workshop, held Monday night at city hall.

As the clock continues to count down the days until the final 2011 levy must be ratified, council members are still looking to trim money from the $9.2 million levy approved on Sept. 7.

City staff has presented several reduction proposals since September, most of which try to avoid the elimination of positions. The latest effort, presented Monday, was to eliminate the "pick up" option of the annual curbside clean-up days in April and May. Residents would still be able to bring their clean-up day items to the city's central maintenance facility for collection.

With that change, city administrator Peter Herlofsky and finance director Theresa Walter thought they had a workable solution. Elimination of the collection portion would have resulted in a savings of $100,000, which would have been passed along to residents in the form of a $3.65 per quarter reduction to their garbage bills.

That savings, in theory, would have offset the cost of eliminating staff positions at city hall, which was another option presented. Though not a staff-recommended option, the document provided to council this week allowed for another possible $100,000 in staff cuts - meaning one and possibly two employees.

Council members, however, felt curbside clean-up is a good service for the community, and opted to leave that program alone.

"I have heard a lot of people say they would even pay more for it," council member Christy Jo Fogarty said. "People really do appreciate that service."

Instead, council members directed Herlofsky to assess city staff and find the positions that could be cut in order to trim $100,000 from the budget. Those positions are on top of a community development staff member coming forward and saying she would take a voluntary layoff, adding $72,900 to the amount to be trimmed from the proposed budget.

But the changes didn't stop there. Council members also cast a critical view on the general fund's fund summary. In particular, they question the $431,455 planned for revenue though licenses and permits and they questioned the $250,000 that was estimated for interest income. Walter admitted the amount may be somewhat over-estimated and promised to review the numbers and bring back another estimate at the next budget workshop. And though proposed building projects already on the books support the permit income, council members asked that amount be scaled back by $20,000, just to be on the safe side.

With the reductions to the revenue side of the equation, and the direction to find $425,000 in cuts - not counting those already identified - council members set their next workshop for Nov. 22. Council members hope to have some firm numbers by the next workshop.

"Do your job," council member Julie May told 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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