Council struggles with deficitStaring down the barrel of a $1.2 million budget deficit heading into 2011, Red Wing City Council will be forced to make some unpopular decisions in the coming months.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
Staring down the barrel of a $1.2 million budget deficit heading into 2011, Red Wing City Council will be forced to make some unpopular decisions in the coming months.
To balance next year's budget council will likely need to cut services, implement new fees and maybe raise taxes.
"None of this is ideal. We know that," City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said during a budget workshop held Wednesday at City Hall.
She added later: "It's all about really bad choices."
During Wednesday's workshop, council took no official action but did throw its weight behind number of proposals, which included a proposed overhaul of Red Wing's incinerator.
Council members showed interest in instituting new natural gas and electric franchise fees that would affect residences and businesses. They also chose to close of the Community Development Building.
Meanwhile, council members were hesitant to commit to a number of other budget cuts, including the closure of the Colvill Aquatic Center.
@Sub Heads: Pool slides through budget talks
Lifeguards and other workers at the aquatic center have in recent weeks been rallying support for the community pool.
They had feared it would become a victim of budget cuts.
On Wednesday council members showed they had little interest in closing the pool.
They acknowledged the facility is a large drain on the city's coffers -- it's expected to cost Red Wing $225,000 in 2011 -- but also that it is popular within the community.
@Sub Heads: New fees
Council seemed -- at least tentatively -- in favor of implementing new electric and natural gas franchise fees. The fees have not been formally adopted.
The natural gas fee as proposed would cost residents 75 cents a month and the electric fee would cost $1 a month. The fees would be flat -- unchanged by monthly use.
The fees, as currently proposed, would add $110,000 to the city's coffers next year.
Council members said they weren't interested in raising Red Wing's monthly storm water fee by $2.
@Sub Heads: Aiming for a flat levy
A majority of council members said they were willing to submit a preliminary level for 2011 that would represent a 2 percent increase over the 2010 levy.
Preliminary levies are submitted in Sept. 15. Cities have until late December to submit their final levies.
Council members said Wednesday they have every intention of whittling the preliminary levy down and keeping the final 2011 levy flat compared to this year's.
@Sub Heads: Closing community building
Next year, the city's planning and engineering staffs with move out of the Community Development Building at 419 Bush St. The building will be closed, or maybe rented.
City officials also expressed interest in selling the Friedrich Center, the Maple Street building and Mississippi National Golf Links.
@Sub Heads: Workers spared for now
Another possible cut city staff identified was the lay-off of a public works employee. The layoff would've saved the city $65,000 a year, according to a city memorandum.
Moskwa said if his staff is cut back, jobs might not get done as quickly.
"There are just some things that aren't going to get done on that timely basis that (the council) and the public want it done," he said.
Council members said Wednesday they weren't interested in calling for the layoff at this time.
Proposing to lay off a worker clearly frustrated Moskwa, who said, "It's not fun. I don't enjoy this."
Council was also asked if it was interested in cutting a full-time staff member from the city's Channel 6 staff.
The cut would result in the elimination of the public access channel's original programming. The remaining three part-time staff members would have focused on taping council and other meetings held at City Hall.
@Sub Heads: City: state aid cuts are the root of the problem
City officials have been quick to say Red Wing's budget deficit is largely the byproduct of state aid cuts.
City Council Finance Director Marshall Hallock reiterated that point Wednesday night.
"We either cut services or we increase revenues to backfill the money we're losing from the state," he said.
Red Wing was originally set to receive just under $2 million in Local Government Aid in 2010. After cuts it received $644,000.
Red Wing is set to receive $1.35 million next year.
"I don't buy that," Hallock said, explaining he doubts the city will actually see all of that money.
Red Wing's 2011 budget is being built based on the assumption the city will receive the same amount of aid dollars in did this year.