City readies for first cuts

Published 10:43 am Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Several organizations in Austin will be receiving letters notifying them of the opportunity to make their case for city funding or it will be cut.

The city council is in the process of deciding what will stay and what will go of 100 line items that have the potential for budget reductions.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has forecasted Austin will lose $579,374 in 2009 and $1.21 million in 2010. Although those numbers are not definitive, the governor does have the right to veto. Legislators’ deadline is May 18.

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Department heads, city administration, the mayor and the city council have proposed items they believe are potential reductions; the council discussed the first 31 items Monday night during a work session.

Twelve tentative considerations for cuts in 2010 will be on the regular council meeting agenda April 6. Several organizations will be sent letters informing them of their potential cuts and to give them the opportunity to make their cases for funding: Human Rights Commission ($3,500); Welcome Center ($7,500); Fourth of July festival ($6,000); Community Band ($2,052); Local Artist funding ($500); Austin Symphony ($2,500); Christmas in the City ($855); and KSMQ ($25,000).

Others, including the city volunteer recognition party; Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities membership; city newsletter; and employee appreciation/wellness plan funding, were also forwarded to the next council meeting for tentative cuts.

“We should just say exactly what it is — it is a tentative cut for 2010,” council member Brian McAlister suggested. “If you’ve got a case to make, come in and make it. Otherwise, it’s gone.”

Council members voiced their opinions on the proposals.

Now, more than ever, membership to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is important, council member Janet Anderson said.

“The Human Rights Commission is one of the ones who has never asked for anything,” council member John Martin said.

Line items under the capital outlay and city administration budget reduction options were okayed to recommend for approval at the April 6 meeting, including: senior center bathroom remodel ($15,000 for 2009); city hall restroom paint project ($10,000 for 2009); opt out health insurance ($115,000 for 2010); and city administrator reduction ($3,000 for 2009 and $2,000 for 2010).

Martin asked if it was possible to consider cutting city administrator Jim Hurm’s salary more than proposed.

Tom Dankert, director of administrative services, said the purpose of implementing furloughs in 2010 was to avoid “hacking” on individual employees’ salaries. He said Hurm is not a union employee.

“You can certainly open up contracts for negotiations,” Martin said.

The next set of line items will be discussed during another work session Monday at 6 p.m. at city hall.

Recommendations will be on the agenda for approval at the next regular council meeting, Monday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m.