Willmar, Minn., mayor says he intends to downsize city government
WILLMAR -- Mayor Frank Yanish said he intends to help downsize city government. He announced his intention in keeping with his administration's commitment to transparency, he said.
"I emphasize the word help because the mayor cannot do it alone,'' Yanish said Monday in comments before the City Council's Finance Committee discussed and approved an amended 2012 city budget of $31,706,422 and the 2012 property tax levy of $3,992,734.
Yanish said it takes the council in all its combined wisdom to make the right decisions.
"It takes all city employees to understand -- no one will be laid off -- and this will all be accomplished through attrition as people retire or resign and to also understand everyone must work harder and smarter in order to get the job done,'' he said.
"And, of course, we need the citizens of Willmar to understand that the city service levels may change,'' he said.
Yanish said the process is under way in his budget. He said five staff positions and $27,000 for the federal lobbyist have been eliminated.
"In these tough economic times, everyone must share the pain,'' he said. "It is my hope that when we are successful with these changes, the entities such as the school system, the county government, the state and maybe even the federal government will follow our lead.''
"With everyone's help, we can and we will streamline city government and we will all be better for it,'' he said.
In an interview following the 2½-hour meeting, City Administrator Charlene Stevens said she is not aware of any anticipated retirements or resignations in 2012.
"But anytime there are staffing changes or retirements or resignations, it is an opportunity to look at the structure of city government and see if it can be more efficient,'' she said. "But he has not given any specific direction.''
The committee's budget and levy action will be recommended to the full council on Dec. 5.
The committee amended the budget upward by $23,200 from the mayor's initial proposal of $31,683,222 to reflect the cost of the fixed-base operator contract with Maximum Cruise Aviation to provide certain airport services. The contract had been inadvertently omitted from the budget.
Stevens recommended, and the committee approved, using increased revenues from the Fire Department service contracts with Dovre Township and Willmar Township to pay for the fixed-base operator contract. She believes the revenues will offset the expense of the contract. The revenues will be at a higher rate than the city had initially budgeted in August, she explained.
The committee -- currently comprised of council members Denis Anderson, Jim Dokken, Rick Fagerlie and Tim Johnson -- meets with the full council at this time every year after a couple of months of budget discussions to make final recommendations, and the committee Monday night entertained a number of questions from other council members.
Councilman Ron Christianson asked about various budget line items in an attempt to look for savings. He said he asked the questions Monday because he cannot ask questions during regular Finance Committee meetings because he is not a member of that committee. He apologized for extending the meeting but said he needed the questions answered.
Yanish recommended the council concentrate on the 80 percent of the budget that constitutes salaries.
The committee also recommended the 2012 city property tax levy of $3,992,734, up 4 percent from 2011, and recommended the Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority 2012 levy of $170,000.
The committee also received the traditional 2012 budget reports from Rice Memorial Hospital and Willmar HRA.
However, committee chairman Anderson and others expressed disappointment that Bruce Gomm, general manager of Willmar Municipal Utilities, did not present the utility's 2012 budget.
Gomm said the budget was not ready due to some staff changes and said he would have it ready when the committee meets again in December.