State to dole out LGA

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2002

Austin's financial coffers averted a potential disaster Friday when Gov. Jesse Ventura said the state's payments to local governments will go on as planned.

Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty had asked Ventura to hold off on some of the payments to help reduce the state's multi-billion dollar deficit.

But Ventura said that cities are owed the monies and many governments had been banking on those funds.

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Like Austin.

"We were very, very concerned," said Austin Mayor Bonnie Rietz. "We're working really hard on a local level on local government aid. We're trying to be very prudent."

Rietz said although the council has been mindful of what it's been spending as of late, bills still have to be paid.

"We pay our wages, we take care of our public safety, we take care of our streets. Those payments come in at the end of the year to take care of all of that, those basic needs for outstate cities," Rietz said.

Rietz said the city council has taken steps to alleviate the financial blow should LGA be reduced in 2003. City Finance Director Tom Dankert said Austin is slated to receive about $7.8 million in aid and that amount can only be changed by an act of the state legislature.

Rietz said the city did not replace its Housing and Redevelopment Authority director, it has held off on hiring a new police officer and is waiting to hire a community services librarian.

"Plus, we're holding off on other capital projects," she said.

Dankert said if LGA doesn't come through as expected for 2003, some capital projects that could be put on hold include:

n $200,000 set aside for the pavilion at Community Bandshell Park

n $250,000 for Riverland ball diamond improvements

n $75,000 toward improvements for the concessionary facility at Todd Park

n $50,000 toward new park equipment

"Those (projects) will still be on hold until the legislature gets done next year," Dankert said. "If LGA stays the same, we can do those projects. But if LGA is reduced by a million (dollars), there will have to be some serious belt tightening."

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at