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City council urging state to increase LGA levels

The Austin City Council is urging the state to return Local Government Aid to its 2002 level.

The council unanimously passed a resolution during its regular meeting Tuesday to call for the LGA increase, and City Administrator Craig Clark said the funding is “critically important” to the city.

Austin receives 51.4 percent of its general fund budget from the aid.

Since 2002, Austin and other cities have had to deal with rising cost pressures and the city either has to absorb it or reduce the services.

Services such as increasing road construction costs, increased environmental wastewater standards and a shrinking workforce have pressured the city funds.

The aid helps low property tax base cities such as Austin provide those services, according to Clark.

Clark said when the Legislature debated a new formula for determining aid four years ago, Austin came out the same.

The request for 2002 LGA levels makes for a $45 million increase in funding. That would account for an increase of $378,000 for Austin. However, the 2002 level is not adjusted for inflation.

The city’s resolution echoes a push by The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which represents dozens of communities on the LGA rolls.

LGA is already looking to be a hot discussion topic heading into the 2016 Minnesota Legislative Session and the November elections.

Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported mayors and other elected officials from outstate Minnesota are pressuring House Republicans to support increased state spending on government aid to cities and towns, hoping to capitalize on the increased importance of rural voters to the GOP’s power at the Capitol.

On Tuesday, House Democrats came out with its own “Greater Minnesota for All” agenda, which aims to boost aid and investments in greater Minnesota. The Democrats included the call to return LGA to 2002 levels in the plan.