Proposed unallotments have city, counties stunnedThe Governor’s proposal to cut an additional $405,000 from the city of Cloquet’s 2010 budget had city council members sounding off Tuesday during their working session.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The Governor’s proposal to cut an additional $405,000 from the city of Cloquet’s 2010 budget had city council members sounding off Tuesday during their working session.
In fact, “vent” was on the to-do list for the meeting.
“We knew this stuff was coming, said Cloquet City Administrator Brian Fritsinger. “But we weren’t looking at a cut of this size right off the bat.”
Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his plans to balance the state’s budget earlier this week – with $1.2 billion in reductions including $250 million from city and county aid.
This is the second time in a year local governments have faced a similar-sized cut. The city had planned for a phased-in reduction of their budget – to the tune of $100,000 per year for the next several years. However, with the Governor’s plan to cut nearly $1 million in one year, the city’s plan won’t do much good, according to Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren.
Fritsinger feared the potential loss of services to Cloquet residents if the aid is diminished according to Pawlenty’s proposal.
“We’ve shaved all the shavings,” he said of all the cost-saving measures the city put in place last year when the first $450,000 was unalloted. “Now we’re talking big issues.”
In light of the most recent unallotment scenario, during the regular meeting the council tabled one item on the agenda and pared back on another.
Instead of approving a long-standing deal to pay Cloquet Community Education $88,000 per year for services including running the community recreation program, staffing and management of the Pinehurst pond, Pine Valley tubing hill and Red Cross swim program – they opted to table it until they know more about the budget.
The council also opted to request bids for the reconstruction of Selmser Avenue from Highway 33 to 10th Street, but would not commit to going forward with the project this summer, as previously planned.
“The pipes underneath the street are 100 years old,” councilor Deb Hill said. “You just never know when they’re going to go, but you know one of these days, they will.”
“It’s one of those projects where I’m scared if we do it and scared if we don’t,” Ahlgren added.
City Engineer Jim Prusak said it would make sense to gather bids as they could come back fairly low due to the economic downturn.
“There’s no doubt we’ll get good prices now on bids,” he said. “Will we get half price though? No.”
The council, with councilors David Bjerkness and Neil Nemmers opposing, agreed to gather bids before making a final decision on the project.
At the county level, when Paul Gassert, Carlton County auditor/treasurer, first heard on Monday that Governor Tim Pawlenty had proposed another $945,659 in unallotments to the county, he was stunned.
“I would say it is probably twice as much as I had anticipated,” said Gassert.
The amount of funding previously unalloted for Carlton County was $506,128, and this latest amount leaves only $672,975 out of the county’s originally alloted amount of $2,124,762.
“We’ll still need to carry on with 2010,” said Gassert, “but we’ll definitely have to take a bite out of [our budget] by ridding ourselves of some things that aren’t absolutely essential.”
Since the county has already dramatically pared back its expenses for 2010, Gassert said he fears any more financial hardship could mean resorting to layoffs and increased levies further down the line.