City braces for state budget cuts


by Sarah Squires

Over the last few months, local leaders have been waiting anxiously, nervously, for news they knew would be bad. With the state economy fizzling, local municipalities have been bracing for cuts to state aid, even money for this year that’s already been promised and spent.

And the first of those cuts have been announced, with Governor Tim Pawlenty revealing Friday that he’ll “unallot” $110 million in funds for cities and counties for fiscal year 2009.

For the city, that means about $640,000 less in local government aid which was expected to come in by the end of the month. The full council will meet on January 12 to discuss ways to trim that out of the budget while bracing for more anticipated cuts at the end of the legislative session.

For Winona County, that means about $330,000 less in county program aid from the state, money it will have to try to find while maintaining state mandated services like public health, human services and county jail and law enforcement.

County Finance Director Pat Moga said that the County Board will likely begin mulling cuts in early January, and that it will first look to see if any departments came in under budget this year. And, the board is also scheduled to discuss budget cut scenarios for the coming year.

City Manager Eric Sorensen announced Monday that the Police Department co-Deputy Chief position won’t be replaced when current Deputy Chief Paul Bostrack moves on to the Chief spot as a way to trim down the budget. “We have to recognize the [financial] reality,” he said.

Mayor Jerry Miller wouldn’t comment about potential layoffs due to state cuts, but said that the city will “focus on basic services” as it tries to deal with budget woes.

“Nothing is very concrete at this point,” said Moga of where the county’s cuts might come from. “The scenarios will be all over the place. I guess we’ll know more in the future.”


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