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City finance panel chair wants early start time for budget talks

WILLMAR — The Finance Committee’s final meeting this year to review and act on Mayor Frank Yanish’s proposed 2014 budget will start earlier than usual due to the length of time anticipated for discussion and recommendation.

Finance Committee Chair Denis Anderson announced the committee meeting will begin at 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Municipal Utilities Auditorium, where the proceedings will be video recorded for presentation later. Other council members will also attend.

Anderson announced the starting time Monday in his report to the City Council on the Finance Committee’s Oct. 28 meeting.

Although committee meetings typically begin at 4:45 p.m., Anderson requested an earlier starting time due to the number of items needing discussion.

“We’ll finalize the budget. We’re going to stay here until we do,’’ Anderson told the council.

The meeting will begin with budget presentations by officials of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Municipal Utilities and Rice Hospital. Anderson hopes those presentations and discussions will be completed by 4:30. The council approves the HRA levy and receives the budgets for information.

Discussion will then switch to a list of unresolved items:

- The mayor’s proposed $228,000 reductions in dues, subscriptions, memberships, travel and training.

- Funding requests from community groups.

- Membership dues for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and National League of Cities.

Also, the committee and council members will discuss and review capital expenditures, vehicle replacements, and balancing the budget.

Yanish says he’s proposed the cuts and said it’s now up to the council to review and make a recommendation.

If the cuts remain, the budget would not be balanced and the funds would have to be reallocated to balance the budget or the levy could be reduced, City Administrator Charlene Stevens explained.

Following the discussion, a recommendation will be made on the 2014 levy and budget to be presented during a public hearing and final action Dec. 2.

If the committee does not complete its discussion and review in time for the Dec. 2 hearing, the hearing will be continued and final council action will take place Dec. 16.

Other discussion will center on funding for community groups.

Funding requests that were not included by Yanish were $58,500 for the Willmar Design Center; $21,000 for the West Central Integration Collaborative; $20,000 for the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center; and $2,000 for the Community Marketing Coalition.

Also not included was a late request from Safe Avenues for $37,000.

Yanish did include funding requests of $28,000 for the Humane Society; $15,000 for West Central Industries for the meals on wheels program; and $25,000 for Willmar Fests.

In other business, the committee will review upcoming capital expenditures and vehicle replacements.

Anderson said there will be a short discussion on each item. Then all council members will vote on all the items and the budget.

“We’ll bring that final budget after it’s been modified and adjusted to the council to approve,’’ he said in an interview. “But it will be the result of the discussion and the votes that we took on the 19th.’’

The Tribune asked Anderson, who has served on the council since 1998 and has been Finance Committee chair since 2000, if he has seen a budget with cuts like those proposed by the mayor.

 “No, I’ve not seen anything quite like this. There have been instances where things have been eliminated and things like that. But I don’t remember seeing wholesale cuts in certain categories before.’’

In the past, the committee has always had a number of items, he said, “but the dollar amount we’re dealing with is probably larger than anything we’ve dealt with in the past.’’

The committee has been discussing the budget for the past 2½ months, Anderson said, and he thought everyone should have a pretty good understanding on what the impacts of those cuts would be if they were to go into place.

“The council will have a lot to think about on that,’’ he said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150