The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 19, 2011

State aid to cities figures to be flat

By Dan Linehan
The Free Press

MANKATO — Cities will receive the same amount of local government aid this year as last year, though that’s a cut of about 19 percent from the promised amounts, according to the deal between legislators and the governor.

The bill, posted online but not approved by the Legislature as of press time, shows the final local government aid figures mirror that of a February proposal from the Republican-controlled House.

It does not include later modifications that would have phased out LGA for St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth.

Mankato had been told it would receive $7.99 million in LGA this year, though it will receive about $6.23 million under the new deal. North Mankato will receive about $500,000 less than expected, St. Peter about $310,000 less and New Ulm about $730,000 less.

The 2012 allocation will be the same as in 2011, under the deal.

The first of two LGA payments cities get every year is due today, though the state announced Tuesday it would be delayed for a week.

“These are going to be difficult cuts for cities,” said Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities.

The impact to local cities will depend largely on how much LGA they budgeted to receive. Those decisions last fall were essentially guesses about how much the Republican-controlled Legislature would cut LGA.

Mankato budgeted to receive $6.37 million, which is about $140,000 more than the amount it will receive under the most recent deal.

North Mankato budgeted to receive its entire promised allocation. Anything less, Mayor Mark Dehen said, might have indicated that the city thought the lesser amount was appropriate.

“The message was to send to the state that we expect you to hold up your end of the bargain and we’ll hold up our end of the bargain,” Dehen said.

Though Dehen wasn’t involved in those decisions last fall, he has inherited their consequences. If the governor signs this bill, North Mankato has less than six months’ worth of budget left to cut.

Small towns were likely to feel the cuts hardest, though at least one area town predicted this.

Mapleton budgeted its 2011 LGA the same as its 2010 allocation, City Administrator Patty Woodruff said.

The cuts in Mapleton, though, have already been made. Chief among them is a ban on overtime, fewer beautification projects and delays on purchasing big-ticket items.