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Letter: State to Worthington - You can expect $3 million from us in '11

As you may know, the Worthington City Council is currently in the midst of its 2011 budget process and recently "pre-certified" our levy to the State of Minnesota at 4 percent. Of this amount, 1.4 percent is garnered from new taxpayers (new construction) with the remaining 2.6 percent coming from current taxpayers. While each expenditure faces a critical review during the budget process, it is important to understand what is driving the 4 percent increase.

Worthington residents should know the challenges our city council faces as we look to establish a budget for 2011. The State of Minnesota has become an unreliable partner in its commitment to local government to ensure core city services are delivered equally regardless of any individual municipality's property tax wealth. The 2011 Worthington budget is reliant on LGA to provide approximately 45 percent of our general fund.

On July 30, 2010, the city received a letter from the State that reads something like this: Dear City of Worthington, we understand that you will be proceeding with your budget process soon. Because of this, we want you to know that given the Local Government Aid formula you can expect $3,030,078 in 2011 to help fund your police, snow removal, street repairs, parks and other core services. Good luck in your budget process, and we'll send payment in July and December. Sincerely, Minnesota Department of Revenue.

These IOUs from the State have not been honored to the tune of $828,000 from 2003 to the present. This has directly resulted in increasing pressure on local property taxes. The current discussion literally finds the city budgeting in the dark, as the legislature and governor could propose significant reductions in the promised number for 2011.

Other financial demands over last year include an increase in debt service, increase in clean water funding, decrease in interest earnings, added street overlay expenses and a decreasing from the reliance on reserves.

You may wonder just what the city is doing to join taxpayers in weathering a very tough economy. An operational view of departmental budget from 2010 to 2011 shows the actual expense went down by nearly 1 percent. This is attributable to departments being mindful of the difficult economic times we all are facing. Furthermore, expenses for parks and recreation and equipment replacement are being cut back as we tighten our belts like our residents are doing at home.

Council will continue to look at the budget between now and final certification to the State at the end of December. We hope the new governor and legislature recognize the impacts LGA has on communities like Worthington and how they translate to pressures on local property tax rates. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me at City Hall.