This past Friday I attended a meeting of SCALE, Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency. This organization is one of a kind in the state of Minnesota, bringing together the Mayors, city councils, Superintendents, County and City Administrators and others to talk about the issues facing these various units of Local Government. Of course, the state budget and the possibility of losing Local Government Aid (LGA) this December dominated much of the discussion.
Scott County has already trimmed $3 million from its 2009 budget. These cuts will likely mean fewer services available through county public libraries, less money for County Parks, road expansion and maintenance. The county is also reducing its contributions to outside agencies like the County fair, the historical society, and an organization that provides support for battered women.
Cities and counties both have set their budgets for 2009. Northfield is expecting a December LGA payment of $1.4 million. Money has already been spent to provide services to local government departments and agencies assuming the state would fulfill its obligation. Many cities lack the cash flow cushion to sustain large revenue cuts this late in the year, especially without warning.
The state of Minnesota must find $426 million to fill the gap in the current budget shortfall. This must be done by June 30, 2009. If the Governor is set on using LGA to fill that gap, I hope he makes proportional cuts that will allow cities and counties to still receive badly needed checks this December instead of a blindsided approach that leaves our local governments reeling.