To The Editor:
A strong future for Greater Minnesota will be in jeopardy if budget proposals offered by the governor and Senate are passed. These proposals would severely restrict the ability of a city to use its limited tools (local property taxes and state-shared revenues) to provide services that create quality communities.
Red Wing receives $1,199,100 in state-shared revenues and $10,817,300 in property taxes. That money is used to provide things such as police and fire services, street plowing and general maintenance, park and downtown maintenance, library services, and recreational and pool facilities. Those funds also help provide infrastructure to encourage residential and commercial development and redevelopment.
Proposals before the Legislature would drastically reduce state-shared revenues. Of equal concern are recommendations to impose strict levy limits on cities as well as debt restrictions and reverse referenda.
These additional components would make it virtually impossible for cities to continue to provide current services or to build new or replace old infrastructure. Furthermore, moratoriums on city construction and development financing will have adverse effects on the economy.
In an attempt to balance budgets, cities are responding to what they feel is an inevitable reduction in state aids. Some are halting infrastructure and development projects. Others are cutting police patrolling hours and public works projects. Some, literally, are turning off streetlights.
In Red Wing, we are carefully looking at the way we provide services and at how the proposals will impact the quality of life. The City Council has set a course for cuts in 2003 that will balance the city's budget including the elimination of three public works positions. The plan also calls for reductions of support to the ambulance division, Sheldon Theatre, and the engineering division.
The city is forced to eliminate funding for important programs such as the Red Wing Area Seniors, youth outreach workers and the Goodhue County Historical Society.
To balance the 2004 budget, cuts will go even deeper. The following cutbacks are being considered: Downsize the police force by two officers; downsize public works by an additional three positions; downsize administrative positions by four; eliminate temporary and seasonal employees; close some parks and Colvill Aquatic Center; close City Hall and consolidate offices with other city buildings.
The city is striving to find ways to continue to provide the quality of life that residents expect. The implications of the proposals being considered by the state are great. We encourage residents to reach out to state legislators to offer suggestions. If you have questions or ideas or would like contact information for Rep. Jerry Dempsey or Sen. Steve Murphy, call City Hall at 385-3600.
Kay Kuhlmann is City Council administrator.