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Lanesboro city council discusses budget woes


Fri, Feb 6th, 2009
Posted in Government

The Lanesboro City Council got closer to deciding their 2009 budget cuts at their regular meeting February 2. Governor Pawlenty's proposed budget will mean a cut in Lanesboro's LGA (Local Government Aid) of $31,116 in 2009 and $61,000 in 2010.

Mayor Steve Rahn brought up several areas in the budget that can be cut, including $3,500 in the park department for a mower upgrade, $4,000 in part-time wages, and council members' salaries. City Administrator Bobbie Vickerman said they have discussed closing the city office one day a week and cutting back her and another employee's hours to 36 per week. There will be no overtime or comp-time unless pre-approved, and salaries will be frozen for the time being.

During the meeting, resident Robert Thompson spoke to the council about the budget. He questioned whether or not Lanesboro can afford to spend $75-80,000 on police protection. He said at one time the law said that cities with a population of under 800 could hire an uncertified police officer, and that Lanesboro should look into that option. He questioned the need for a full-time city administrator and a city attorney.

"These are things the city needs to look at to trim the budget," he said.

Butch Culbertson asked the council if they would be looking into some of these things and getting back to residents when they approach the council with ideas. Rahn said they would be looking at all of the ideas and talking about the options at the next few meetings.

Vickerman said she has talked with city employees about the cuts. She added that she does believe that Lanesboro needs a full-time administrator. "And I'm not saying that just because it's my job," she said. "I'm on maternity leave and I have been working here and at home while I'm supposed to be gone."

Council member Joe O'Connor mentioned a few other things to look at, such as having the city employees water all of the flowers downtown in the summer, or only sweeping the streets every other week, and reducing mowing frequency.

The possibility of Lanesboro getting a sales tax was brought up by council member Ceil Anderson. Tom Dybing agreed that the option should be looked at, since everything is on the table again. He added that a one percent sales tax would only cover what the city is losing, and it would give people a chance to help out the city.

"It doesn't hurt to ask Ropes to carry the bill," he said. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

Senator Sharon Ropes would have to bring the bill to the legislature, and if passed, the city would be able to have the sales tax on a ballot so citizens could vote on it.

"I don't think one-half to one percent will curtail business," said Dybing. "And it sure would help us."

O'Connor stated that he felt uncomfortable proposing a tax increase at this time. He voted against contacting Ropes and Representative Greg Davids, but the motion passed.

The council will also be re-looking at the police issue and will have to make some decisions in the near future.

City Attorney Tom Manion advised the council against getting rid of anything totally. "When you do away with something, you often find you need it again, and there's a recovery time. It's hard to come back from that."

Vickerman will be putting together some cuts that can be implemented immediately and present them at the next meeting on February 17.

Ambulance Training

Ambulance Director Verne Riddle told the council he would like to add three more members to the crew. They will be losing one person, and will be at around 12 by spring. The council approved three new members and two more radios at $800 each. Tuition for training is $725 per student. Recertification training will be needed for six members this spring at $250 each, for a total of $5,200. Vickerman said the radios will come out of the ambulance capital outlay fund, and there is $3,000 in the training fund.

"The good thing about the ambulance is that they cover themselves with their own revenue," said Vickerman.

Rahn asked if they could hire drivers that are not certified, and Riddle said he believes the law says they must be a licensed first responder by state law.

"Well, the state makes a lot of stupid rules," said Rahn. "Rules can be changed." He expressed his belief that more and more regulations are the problem, and that there is too much bureaucracy. He added that he will be contacting the legislators himself. "It's time they back off a little and let locals take care of things the way they feel it should be done."

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