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Willmar City Council's Finance Committee adds open forum to 2011 budget discussion

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Finance Committee has added a twist to its annual budget discussion leading up to council approval of the 2011 budget and levy in December. Citizens who may want to offer their views about city finances will have the opportunity to do so during the committee's public forum.

The public forum was the idea of committee Chairman Denis Anderson. He said the budget process is important for everyone.

"I think we maybe haven't had any way for citizens to give us their thoughts and ideas on the budget, so I just thought having that as the first agenda item would be an opportunity for citizens to give us some ideas they may have,'' Anderson said.

"We've said we'll take e-mails, phone calls or personal appearance -- any way that the citizens want to communicate with us we'd love to hear from them,'' said Anderson.

The meeting schedule of all the city's committees in-cluding the Finance Co-mmittee -- and meeting agendas wh-en finalized -- are available on the city's website. Committees meet again the second week of October.

The Finance Committee held its third budget review discussion Monday and received its first public comment.

In an e-mail, Willmar resident John Sullivan suggested the city consider looking into the possibility of contracting for services.

Sullivan said he believes there are many services that the city provides that could be contracted out to private entities, which he felt would save the city many dollars in the short term and long term.

Anderson suggested and the committee agreed to forward Sullivan's e-mail to city staff members and to have staff report their thoughts to the committee at the Dec. 13 meeting.

During the review on Monday, Finance Director Steve Okins presented information on accounts and funds that are used for special purposes, such as economic development, industrial development, WRAC-8, tourism promotion, community development, local option sales tax and community investment.

Anderson said the budget review gives council members a better idea of what is in the budget and provides a chance to ask questions.

"If they have questions about a certain thing because sometimes we forget how some things work, it's just a very good refresher,'' Anderson said.

During upcoming meetings, the committee will discuss two very big accounts: the general fund and the wastewater treatment fund next; and will look at budgets for individual departments.

At the Nov. 22 meeting, the committee and remaining council members will hold their final budget discussion before recommending the 2011 budget and levy to the council for approval at the Dec. 6 meeting, according to Anderson.

For more information, visit /upcoming.htm.

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