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Editorial: Budget vote is wrong for Farmington

Last year, not long after he took over as Farmington's city administrator, David McKnight spent most of a Thanksgiving break combing through the city's budget to find cuts. Coming into this year's budget process, he declared that would not be the case again.

He was right, for all the good that will do him. After the Farmington City Council's meeting Monday McKnight will be back in budget-cutting mode, and that's not good.

By all accounts, the city of Farmington had its budget for the coming year figured out well before Monday night's city council meeting. Council members had held a series of workshops to set priorities. After the last of those meetings it appeared there was a budget all council members could live with.

Apparently that wasn't the case. On Monday council members made a surprise 3-2 vote to set the next year's tax levy at the same amount as the levy for the current year. Now McKnight has until Dec. 17 to find more than $150,000 in cuts. He got no guidance from council members Monday night about where he should look.

Most likely, the cuts mean one or more city employee will lose a job in the heart of the holiday season.

There are certainly legitimate reasons for a city to hold the line on its budget. But this is not the way to do it. As mayor Todd Larson pointed out Monday, council members had something like nine months to discuss the coming year's budget. They had numerous workshops in which to raise concerns or demand further cuts. And while some council members certainly argued in favor of a tighter belt, there was no sign the budget process might be ambushed the way it was Monday.

Monday's vote puts McKnight in a difficult position. It makes the city look unprepared. And while a few residents will likely be happy to see their taxes lower than they might otherwise have been, this was not the way to get that done.

Regardless of the decision that was ultimately made, the way it made was altogether wrong.